The Illusionists: we went to see the Korean Manipulator, and ended up being fans of all seven performers

The Illusionists

The events that LKL covers often involve high culture: dance, visual arts, contemporary or experimental music. So a family entertainment show aimed at a mainstream audience is somewhat outside our usual area of coverage. But that’s not to say we don’t appreciate supreme talent and skill when we see it.

Last week we went along to see The Illusionists, a show billed as “The World’s Biggest Selling Magic Spectacular”, and is now at the Shaftesbury Theatre for the summer season. The hook for LKL was that the cast of talented performers includes a Korean artist: Yu Hojin, aka The Manipulator. Yu was born in Korea but now lives in the US. He developed a love for magic at an early age, originally using his powers for nefarious ends such as switching exam papers with the school swot to ensure he got better marks. He was persuaded to come over from the dark side, honed his skills, and competed in the International Federation of Magic Societies world championships, held in Blackpool in 2012. At the age of 19 he won the stage manipulation prize, and also won the Grand Prize for Stage Magic.

Yu Hojin

Yu is joined in this production by some tremendously skilled entertainers and illusionists; and the latest addition to the cast is Britain’s Got Talent finalist, the escapologist Jonathan Goodwin. All of them perform feats that are truly jaw-dropping, and Goodwin’s two stunts definitely fall into the category of “don’t do this at home”.

As well as dazzling with their daring, dexterity and mastery of spectacle, several of the performers are also comedians in their own right. Each act leaves you thinking: How did they DO that? And in each case the performer is extremely skilled in concealing precisely how, though sometimes they joke with you as to the methods used.

Yu is in fact the only performer who doesn’t have a speaking part. His is not that sort of act: his fingers do the talking for him. Unnaturally long, they move gracefully and with exaggerated fluidity through the air, probably thereby distracting your attention from whatever it is that enables him to make playing cards materialise from nowhere. His main act starts and ends with his simple white silk scarf that somehow, on careful folding, transforms into a playing card, and thence into more and more cards, packs of cards, cards that mysteriously rotate in the air, cards that repair themselves before your eyes after having been torn in two, cards that become blank, change their colour or design, cards that vanish into a wisp of smoke, before transforming back into the same elegant silk scarf. He’s probably doing all of this with an enigmatic smile on his handsome, K-pop idol face, but your eyes are so glued to his hands that you don’t notice. Here he is in action, live, on the BBC’s One Show:

So, the Manipulator Yu Hojin was the reason LKL went along. But we ended up being fans of all of the performers. If we had to pick a favourite that would be a tough call, and probably it would be a toss-up between the mind-reader Chris Cox, and Paul Dabek’s trick involving the playing cards and a loaf of sliced bread. All of the performers deserve a show on their own, and to have all seven of them in one show is a real treat.

We’d unhesitatingly buy a ticket for ourselves, but are grateful to The Corner Show PR agency for providing a press ticket to this supremely entertaining show. The show lasts until 1 September. Don’t miss it.
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