A red-robed, monk-like figure sits silently on the stage. Out in the audience, we’re each clutching a mysterious crimson envelope… but we’re under strict instructions not to open it. It’s a humorous but striking start to this elegant magic show, which marries a tale of shadowy mystery with some genuinely sparkling conjuring.
Our host, The Great Baldini, is a comic creation, but he’s undeniably magnificent too. With his bright-coloured tailcoat and booming voice, he’s every inch the Victorian grandee, commanding the stage as impressively as he works his illusions. It’s done with a wink – there’s a hint of affable self-deprecation underpinning it all – and the whole performance sports a knowing old-world vibe, from the sumptuous red velvet that covers much of his set to the antique map he uses to plot his adventures.
And the adventures are important, for this is a show with a story. A humorous echo of The Da Vinci Code, the narrative features a coded message, a mysterious box, an ancient ritual and (of course) a shadowy cabal – which the less-than-modest Baldini is sure must be to blame for the failings of his own career. It’s a good old yarn, which does more than merely string the tricks together: there’s real comic intrigue in how it will all play out, as it builds towards an unexpected and satisfying showdown.
The tricks are pleasingly varied, and often perplexing. While some of the concepts may be familiar – at least if you’ve seen a few magic shows – the execution’s a cut above the norm, and everything is given an innovative storytelling twist. Those mysterious red envelopes hold a mass-participation trick which the whole audience gets to perform, and the finale is a comic masterstroke: a ludicrous take on a sinister ritual which, on the day I attended, took flight to bring the show to a soaring conclusion.
The Great Baldini deserves his self-proclaimed moniker. This is indeed a great show – uniting magic and narrative in an seamless, genial, and vibrantly entertaining whole.