After wowing audiences with their limited run at the Palace Theatre last year, Wonderville has returned to the West End – this time in their own venue. Taking over the building that was formerly Planet Hollywood just off Piccadilly Circus, Wonderville have transformed the building to have it reflect their own magical world, opening with a show called Wonderville: Magic & Cabaret
Markedly different in tone to last years huge show at the Palace (subtitled Magic & Illusion), this intimate show has been designed to have a cabaret feel. While the magic and variety acts are present, they are also joined by cabaret performances with a host on hand to sing and charm their way through the intimate audience.
Each show sees a rotating roster of hosts and acts determined to wow you with their talents. The night I went to was expertly led by Cabaret singer Chastity Belt, who as well as delighting the audience with her incredible voice on covers of ‘London Calling’, ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ and a showstopping ‘Life On Mars’ was full of charisma and comic timing as she worked her way through the cabaret tables, with particularly comedy involving a table full of timid punters who perhaps regretted their choice to sit front and centre (What did they expect?)
Stunning magic was on hand from Matricks, who took classics I have seen before but put their own twist on it. Having never seen tricks like making one of them levitate and one disappear then reappear this close up before, I thought it would give away how these tricks were done. I’m pleased to report I am still completely stumped, not making sense of what I was seeing mere feet in front of me.
There is more than just magic to be had here with variety acts on hand to… well, give you a variety I suppose. Kiki LaHula entertained with hula hoops (not the crisps) though admittedly it wasn’t the most riveting act of the night for me personally, while Aurora Starr performed in the air over the audiences heads in a beautiful sequence.
My personal favourite of the night was Harry DeCruz who was full of charm as he did a mix of party tricks and magic tricks. Fairly simplistic, they were executed in such a way, you couldn’t help but grin away – one highlight being a Malteser with a willing audience member on a measuring tape from the front of the venue to the back, while I will never look at whipped cream the same way again (not as dodgy as it sounds I promise).
The variety was part of the charm of Wonderville and the rotating roster of performers means that multiple visits guarantee a different experience each time. With creative direction from Laura Corcoran and magic consultant from Chris Cox (himself a standout in last years production), you get a sense the show is in safe hands with such talented people behind it.
On the night I went it did feel like there was a bit of inconsistency throughout the acts, even between their own sets with Matricks’ first set notably better than their second, despite the fact this was near the shows conclusion. I felt like the show lacked a satisfying climax and longed for the acts we had seen all night to unite on stage to take their deserved bow. Little details like that could have elevated the experience though I appreciate the cabaret style aesthetic they were going for in separating each act from the other.
The real wonder of Wonderville is in the design. Justin Williams has transformed not just the theatre part of the venue but the entire building to be immersed in the world of Wonderville from the moment you burst through the front door. A beautifully detailed designed, culminating in a gorgeous looking stage seamlessly allows you to feel part of their world.
Bringing theatre to new venues in London is always welcome and Wonderville was a welcome addition to the many options that fill the West End. Full of intrigue and promise, the mix of cabaret and magic created a fabulous evening with the glorious design and immersive nature all adding to the experience. Perhaps not perfect, there is still a lot of potential with a show like this, particularly with the tease that different seasons of programming are being planned for this venue. Still a great representation of the magic of theatre, Wonderville really is wonderful.
Wonderville: Magic & Cabaret is currently booking until October 30th. Tickets from https://wondervilleuk.com/
Photos by Mark Senior