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BWW Review: ADELAIDE FRINGE 2017: A REGULAR LITTLE HOUDINI at Bakehouse Theatre

Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Monday 6th March 2017

Guy Masterson, through his Theatre Tours International, brought a few productions to this year's Fringe, and A Regular Little Houdini is one of them. Written and performed by Daniel Llewelyn-Williams, and directed by Joshua Richards, it features original Irish music by Meg Eliza Cox.

A man, dressed for cold weather and carrying a wooden case, tells us of his childhood, taking us back to 1905 in Newport, South Wales, where his father was a dockworker and at which time he became fascinated by the most famous escapologist of all time, Harry Houdini.

Many a youngster has owned a magic kit at some time, received as a present, or bought with carefully saved pocket money, the box filled with simple tricks to perform to the amazement of their friends and family, but this young boy is more ambitious, wanting to follow in his hero's footsteps. He sets about emulating Houdini and training himself to perform amazements of his own, with varying success.

In telling his own story he tells that of Houdini's early career, and talks of some of his escapes, great and small. We hear, too, of life in Newport, and the building and opening of the Newport Transporter Bridge, as well as the tragedy of the Newport Dock Disaster, subsidence causing the collapse of a new lock that was being built, killing many.

The big event for the boy, though, is the appearance of Houdini at the once famous Lyceum Theatre, an important piece of architecture now, sadly, gone. Eventually meeting Houdini inspires him all over again.

Llewelyn-Williams shows us the man, and the boy, looking back at past times, and reliving them. His performance is riveting, and he occasionally punctuates his narrative with some very well-executed sleight of hand. He takes on the roles of Houdini, as well as the boy's grandfather, Gammy, and his best friend in his childhood, who his reluctant assistant in developing his escape skills, Maurice, as well as other characters.

The script is beautifully written and Llewelyn-Williams weaves his fictional story and the real events together so cleverly that one could easily believe that the entire tale was factual. The child's enthusiasm, confidence, imagination, and dauntlessness couple with the adult's determination to create a performance that will not be quickly forgotten. Llewelyn-Williams is captivating, and a great storyteller. The charm of the main character that he presents draws the audience into the Edwardian world, the hard times, and the hint of hope is like a small flame that grows larger as the story continues.

This is definitely one to put on your list of Fringe shows this year.




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