Eden Court’s OneTouch Theatre buzzes with the hum of meetings and greetings – it is a venue which brings together theatre lovers who recognise each other. The company performing tonight, aptly named New Old Friends, are just that. Their previous outings to the Highlands have drawn audiences back and there is a sense of both anticipation and familiarity.

The dimly lit stage sports an old-fashioned proscenium arch, a wooden chest and a portable screen – hints, if the audience needed them, at what is to come. Houdini’s Greatest Escape promises all the hallmarks of the company’s shows: fast-paced gags, wordplay, high-speed dialogue, staggering physicality, myriad scene and costume changes, inventive stagecraft, and boundless energy.

Houdini’s Greatest Escape draws on what we know of the legendary escapist without bothering too much with historical detail. Instead, the company present us with an original, inventive, and often downright ludicrous whodunnit, featuring a seemingly endless list of characters often distinguished by a single costume prop. Accents serve to tell the many characters apart – the audience are helpless during Adam Elliot‘s single-actor-feat alternating between a newspaper seller and his three comedic customers. Lydia Piechowiak‘s Bess Houdini certainly showcases the actress’s cabaret and circus background, while Kirsty Cox brings a memorable Peaky Blinders-style gangster matriarch to the mix.

Harry Houdini, confidently played by Ben Higgins, may have been known as the world’s greatest entertainer, but in this show, despite remarkably hammed up acting, the stagecraft is the real star: nifty props, local gags, lighting and sound effects, as well as a remarkably versatile set, ensure that the plot is almost secondary. You almost get the sense that a particularly imaginative child has been set loose in a toy shop, so varied – and, let’s be honest, absurd –are some of the prop inclusions. Throughout, the acting is highly physical, and freeze frames and slow motion maximise the comedic effect in action scenes like an underwater escape or a high-risk jump onto a train.

While this less-than-subtle style of theatre may not appeal to everyone, the show offers surprises aplenty. Houdini’s Greatest Escape is at once a brash assault on all of the senses and a breathlessly compelling spectacle. Above all, it is a palpable love-declaration to the pure joy of live performance. Believe me: These guys are all in!