Nick Mohammed: 'For authenticity, I will attempt to perform every night with severe appendicitis'
Mr Swallow is back with his magical, musical biopic of Harry Houdini
Nick Mohammed is the man behind Mr Swallow who is now turning his shambolic theatrical hand to the greatest escapologist of them all. Mohammed tells us about his favourite Houdini adventures.
Escaping from the belly of a sea monster
A quick search online will yield, amongst other things, that one of Houdini's more eccentric escapes was from the belly of a sea monster. The sea monster in question was in fact constructed from half a whale and half an octopus (I don't know their names) but it's fair to say that not only was this one of Houdini's more less noteworthy stunts, it also goes down as one of the messiest and smelliest performances in history.
The Mirror challenge
In 1904, the Daily Mirror challenged Houdini to escape from a special set of handcuffs that it claimed had taken locksmith Nathaniel Hart five years to make. Quite why Hart had worked so slowly on these handcuffs is unclear. Either way, Houdini was able to escape from the restraints in just under an hour, causing Nathaniel to question his skills and, indeed, his whole existence.
That same year, Houdini was challenged with escaping from the notorious 'Murderers' Row' of Washington DC prison. Not only did Houdini succeed in getting out of his cell, he also proceeded to open the doors of eight other cells and shuffle the prisoners about. This resulted in an administrative nightmare for the wardens involved who, to be fair, were just trying to do their jobs and protect the general public from some of the world's most nasty criminals.
The Chinese water torture cell
Many believe that this is the escape that killed Houdini. Sadly, it was the slightly less flamboyant condition of severe appendicitis that finished off the great Harry Houdini. Needless to say, for the sake of authenticity, I too will attempt to perform the show every night with severe appendicitis.
Mr Swallow: Houdini, Pleasance Courtyard, 6–28 Aug, 7pm, £11–£14 (£10–£13). Previews 3–5 Aug, £6.