BWW Review: BILLY KIDD: BRIDGING THE GAP Fuses Magic, Comedy, Surrealism at Liberty Magic
It's something of a cliche to compare magicians to Harry Potter, especially youthful, energetic British ones. Luckily, Billy Kidd bears no resemblance whatsoever to the fabled boy wizard; no, she's more of a female Daniel Radcliffe. (Anyone who has seen Radcliffe in ANYTHING other than his most famous role knows the kind of joyfully off-kilter blend of enthusiasm and weirdness this comparison should bring to mind.) Headlining at the Cultural Trust's Liberty Magic cabaret theatre, Billy Kidd manages to fuse sleight of hand, comedy and theatre into something unique and unforgettable.
To avoid spoilers for the magic show, this review will be brief. Billy Kidd, the actor and magician, is almost certainly playing a character, the (fictionalized) magician Billy Kidd. "I have issues," she jokes at the beginning of the show, and the whole evening's loose plot revolves around this: our narrator has deep-seated, unresolved issues about growing up. A Peter Pan complex is not that unusual in a magician, but part of the charm of the Billy Kidd character is the way her neuroses not only fuel the banter and monologue sections, but at times begin to impact the tricks and stunts as well. Kidd chats with, then begins to berate, her magician's assistant, which happens to be a mechanical cymbal-banging Jolly Chimp; she repeatedly derails her momentum to monologue about her repeat instances of attempting to be the oldest trick-or-treater in her neighborhood; she even flies into a cuteness-induced rage as she attempts to conjure up more and more adorable things.
The magic, of course, is top notch, and the intimacy of the Liberty Magic venue (especially the VIP lounge) doesn't allow for much trickery: what you see is what you get, and with Billy Kidd what you see is VERY impressive. Even without the theatrical overlay, these tricks would be undeniably amazing. But it's the element of theatre that makes her different. With her oddball sense of humor, quirky energy and mingled US/UK/Canada accent (the product of living and working in all three countries), Billy Kidd's Doctor Who-esque energy and enthusiasm is infectious. Watching Kidd perform feels like watching one of the great stage-comedy "characters" in an early outing, like how audiences must have felt seeing Dame Edna or Pee-Wee Herman before they broke big. It's especially telling that Kidd ends her show not with a spectacular trick, but with a theatrical bit: she lets the magic serve the story, but it's the story that sends us home.