Mr Swallow: Houdini (4 stars)

Silly, funny and jaw-dropping hour with the wonderfully whiny Swallow

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Mr Swallow: Houdini

When Nick Mohammed first introduced us to the relentlessly whiny, camply daft and endlessly blundering Mr Swallow, he played on his own superlative techniques of memory to provide an eye-catching twist. Two years ago, he moulded Swallow into an unlikely musical theatre maverick with his stage production of Dracula, a show that when it was not going horribly wrong simply went wonderfully right.

For this year's Houdini, Mohammed has merged the two strains of his Swallow act with another thoroughly enjoyable musical allied to feats of escapology that might convince your brain you've inadvertently wandered into an upmarket circus tent. Given the general tenor of Swallow tripping over himself either physically or cerebrally, and his pained attempts to avoid doing anything that might imperil his safety, the grand finale becomes all the more impressive.

Alongside his Dracula sidekicks, the fastidious Goldsworth (David Mills) and naïve Jonathan (Kieran Hodgson), this show kicks off as the strains of 'The Entertainer' fade. Running through a potted history of Harry Houdini, Swallow points out the many differences between himself and the magician, some of which are physical, the crucial ones being temperamental: Houdini was driven and dedicated to his craft, Swallow just can't really be bothered and is genuinely stunned when he pulls off any feat of trickery. All this sets us up for the memorable ending.

In this seamlessly silly and frequently funny hour, Swallow almost becomes a one-man Marx Brothers, tossing out Groucho-esque sarcastic bon mots, playing the Harpo-like slapstick fool, and getting his words all a-mixed up like Chico. But fear not, Mr Swallow will never be as plain as a Zeppo.

Pleasance Courtyard, until 28 Aug, 7pm, £13--£14 (£12--£13).

Mr Swallow – Houdini

  • 4 stars

The Pleasance, Nick Mohammed and United Agents Following his critically acclaimed portrayal of Dracula, Nick Mohammed's alter ego Mr Swallow is back with a magical, musical biopic of Houdini that he's definitely rehearsed this time. Definitely! ★★★★ (Guardian). ★★★★ (Times). ★★★★ (Independent). ★★★★ (Telegraph). ★★★…

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