Review of 'Penn & Teller: UK Tour 2017'


Penn & Teller are the “enfant terrible” of the magic world turning much of what we believe about magic on it's head. From the revealing of tricks to the love of the macabre and fantastic they have been drawing crowds to their show in Las Vegas for 21 years.

This sold out show at the Apollo was a lot of fun despite the oppressive heat in one of the hotest days in London for many years. Penn was obviously suffering greatly (and commented more than once about it) but soldiered on to put on a very enjoyable show though without many of the bigger stunts they are known for (no escape tricks here). Their excellent close up magic and more traditional tricks is contrasted with non-magical, yet still amazing, stunts including the picking up of sandwich components from a number of large animal spring-traps. The second act trick where a phone from an audience member appears inside a fish on top of a block of ice under a seat in the middle of the stalls was also very impressive and done with great confidence and utter conviction.

Penn talks a lot during the show and what particularly struck me was his comment about the “Magic Circle” - The famous London-based organisation of magicians that Penn & Teller were asked to donate various magical artefacts to for their museum yet were not asked to join (Penn & Teller's annoyance at this is made clear). They are obviously very serious about their magic talking about the many, many hours they devote to perfecting them and showing great pride in their “Fool Us” television show (where they have magicians perform in an attempt to fool Penn & Teller with the prize, if they do fool them, the offer of opening for their Vegas show). The show program is full of interesting articles and anecdotes (in contrast with other event programs that are woefully short on content/quality) and well worth the £10.

Some of the simplest looking tricks are the most powerful here such as a large cardboard box that two people from the audience were invited to lift which they did very easily then trying again a few seconds later they find it impossible (with Teller coming out of the box at the end).

There was a lot of audience participation in this show with one particular trick having everyone in the audience pick up four different cards from barrels containing them in the foyer. Called the “Love Ritual” after the interval Penn guided everyone through a series of random shuffling of the cards and tearing them in half and trading pieces with your neighbour to magically then discard many of the halves until the two remaining just happen to form the same card. They have a real way of engaging with the audience.

Despite saying from the outset that they were going to show us a number of new tricks many of them looked familiar to me and I could swear I have seen them perform them before which was slightly disappointing as was the lack of the bigger, more theatrical tricks. Nonetheless, though hot and stuffy, the 1 1/2 hour (plus 20 minute interval) show was good fun with a lot of energy from both consummate performers who even came out in front of the theatre (in the cooler air) to sign autographs afterwards. Now I am interested in seeing their Vegas show…

Rating: “Nearly perfect, but not quite”

Review Date: 2017-06-20

Eventim Apollo

Location: London (England)

Address: 45 Queen Caroline Street London, England W6 9QH

Public Transport: TUBE Hammersmith

Telephone: +44 (0) 20 8563 3800


Formerly simply the “Hammersmith Apollo” this iconic venue may be uncomfortable and showing it's age but it still has the air of majesty and history about it as it has been largely untouched since the days of the Beatles playing here. The wide (and high) auditorium has no air conditioning with a large stalls area (standing at back) and a large single balcony (circle). The main foyer has four, count them, four bar areas (and a souvenir kiosk).