Review Round Up: The Art of Illusion, Hampstead Theatre

We round up what critics have had to say about Alexis Michalik’s  play, playing at the Hampstead Theatre until the 28th January.

(c) Robert Day

The Guardian: ** “the cast do decent work with their fast-rotating roles, particularly Bettrys Jones as the more-than-she-seems victim of thievery, and Rina Fatania mining her various bit parts fruitfully for eccentric humour. The Art of Illusion is not without pleasures but it does lack the confidence and lightness of touch that might make Michalik’s play fly.”

Broadway World: ** “The company might get better as they grow more skilled in the tricks involved in the production, but it’s difficult to save a show that feels as tired and unsophisticated as a seaside attraction.”

WhatsOnstage: ** “If atmosphere, quirkiness and a rock solid belief in the power of storytelling were enough by themselves to carry a full-length piece of theatre, then Hampstead’s first offering of the year in the Downstairs space would be an unabashed winner. Unfortunately, Alexis Michalik’s award-winning 2014 Le Cercle des Illusionistes, re-titled The Art of Illusion for English-speaking audiences and staged with considerable verve and invention by director Tom Jackson Greaves, proves too episodic and elliptical to really connect with. It fails to make anything especially gripping out of its parallel stories.”

Evening Standard: ** “The frustrating thing is that there’s fascinating stuff here, reality and myth: 20th-century escapologist Harry Houdini did indeed choose his name in tribute to Robert-Houdin, and stories of early automata and confected visual narratives illuminate contemporary concerns about artificial intelligence and fake news.”

All That Dazzles: ** “While this magic act failed to make a believer out of me, there is charm to be found in its talented cast and a genuine joy to be mined from their use of the performance space. Some theatregoers may be enchanted by the stagecraft and stronger moments of character work, while others may wish they’d kept a few of the twists up their sleeves – this dichotomy of the arts is the real magic at play.”

The Stage: ** “Drama of love and magic fails to cast a spell”

The Reviews Hub: **** “Where the story falls short, the atmosphere and performances make this story well worth a watch, and while there are very few stories that deserve the audience’s undivided attention for 100 minutes straight through, The Art of Illusion makes a strong case.”

London Unattached.com: “In the audience of the cosy space of the Hampstead Theatre Downstairs, one always feels like one is part of the production. While it might not tug vigorously at the heartstrings, The Art of Illusion harnesses the uniqueness of the space to create a show that interacts with its audience, integrating it into its subject matter, and producing a memorable spectacle.”

This is Local London: *** “Michalak’s original title was Le Cercle des Illusionistes, and while suggestions of faked film, augmented and virtual reality feel hastily introduced and underexplored, they try to bring back what seems a period piece full circle to modern relevance.”

British Theatre Guide: “The intricate interweaving of all these stories rediscovers them all in the 1980s and then does a leap forward to the next generation. It is all very cleverly contrived but The Art of Illusion doesn’t provoke real engagement. There is much to enjoy but I suspect there is a better play under the surface.”

To find out more visit: https://www.hampsteadtheatre.com/whats-on/2022/the-art-of-illusion/

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