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Review: Mind Mangler - Member Of The Tragic Circle (Apollo Theatre)

Review by Daz Gale


⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


The West End can never have too much mischief – with their long-running The Play That Goes Wrong still packing the audiences in, Mischief Comedy is giving one of their characters his own headline act as The Mind Mangler breaks free from Magic Goes Wrong to wow us all with his amazing gifts and skills… possibly. Would this be another show that goes very right for them or would they mangle this one?



Mind Mangler: Member Of The Tragic Circle broke out to form its own show in 2022 at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Its sold-out season was then developed into a two-act show which toured the UK last year and crossed the pond for a season in New York. Now, the West End finally gets a chance to experience the show for themselves and maybe even be one of the lucky audience members who get chosen to go up on stage with him (though many of them DO look the same).


Through a speedy two hours, the Mind Mangler showcases his variety of talents and heightened senses to an enthralled audience. Some of these can go very wrong as you expect but some do feature genuine magic as well. It is this seamless blend of magic and comedy that makes Mind Mangler a special entity, as it did for Magic Goes Wrong before it. The never-knowing whether the payoff will be a feat of amazement, a punchline, both, or a tantrum as they move on to the next thing keeps you on your toes throughout.



The one consistency throughout is how painfully funny it is from start to finish. Delving into the backstory of the Mind Mangler, the tragedy of his past (and future) plays out before us with some wicked payoffs. While Mischief shows have always played to audiences of all ages, prepare for a few choice four-letter words in this one too but they all add to the character and the humour of it all. Highlights for me include the brilliant recurring gag ‘Quickfire Jesus’ which created a roaring laugh every time and a Ouija board sequence which went very wrong.


Audience participation is a big part of this show – if you sit in the front row, prepare to be picked on, though really nowhere in the stalls is safe. You have been warned. The press night audience was as ridiculous as you would expect with the characters he met including a theatre reviewer (not this one thankfully), the manager of the Aldwych Theatre, and a shocking secret involving X Factor winner Sam Bailey and her criminal cast. As the Mind Mangler, Henry Lewis showcases a real knack for going off script and reacting to the unexpected, spontaneous, and ad-hoc comments and situations the audience put him to with such a comedic skill that weaved together the scripted moments with those unique to this performance. The hark backs to these references throughout the performance were a testament to this.



One particular audience member who I can’t promise will be at every other performance as there are definitely no stooges used in this show is Jonathan Sayer, listed in the programme as “The Stooge”. Yet another ingenious comic creation from Mischief Comedy, this showed them at their very best with his hapless approach ensuring he refused to follow the pre-arranged script. Every appearance he made elicited a huge laugh – while Mind Mangler may have his name on the theatre, this is very much a double act and one who has the potential to be as al legendary as Penn & Teller.


Mischief’s Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields have written another brilliantly funny show that carves out its own identity while never feeling a million miles away from the Mischief family, as each of their shows has successfully done. Hannah Sharkey’s direction always puts fun at the heart of it, never venturing far from the question of what will make each gag even funnier. One particular highlight included a surprising reveal in  Sara Perks’ set design, with Ben Hart’s involvement ensuring the evening was as magical as you would hope.



Mind Mangler is another stormer of a show for Mischief Comedy. With great characters and a well-thought-out approach, blending chaos and cohesion in the way only Mischief can, it was always a joy to watch. Theatre magic at its finest, Mind Mangler may only be in the West End for 6 weeks but if it comes back for a longer run in the future, I certainly wouldn’t mind (mind mind).


Mind Mangler: Member Of The Tragic Circle plays at the Apollo Theatre until 28th April. Tickets from https://nimaxtheatres.com/


Photos by Pamela Raith

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