The Mysterious Gentleman
31st Oct to 18th Nov 2017
“Following on from a critically acclaimed run at the Playhouse Theatre in Cheltenham, Jarek Adams’ play The Mysterious Gentleman, exploring the eternal question of what lies beyond death, told through the life story of mercurial magician JN Maskelyne and incorporating stage magic, comes to the Courtyard Theatre, opening on Halloween 2017.
JN Maskelyne was known as the father of modern magic in the Victorian era, building his career on challenging fraudulent spiritualists and charlatans as well as creating magical illusions that amazed Victorian audiences, and still astonish people today. A man of contradictions, the play explores his human desire to break through to those in the afterlife whilst clinging to his scientific belief that it was not possible. He also insisted that all he did onstage was clever illusion, whilst encouraging people to believe the myth about his powers being granted by a mysterious gentleman.
But why did he explore dark magic? Were his powers supernatural? And who was the mysterious gentleman in black? He died in 1917, and will return to the stage in 2017.”
Director ……………….Kasia Rozycki
Producer……………….Partners in Mischief Productions & Off The Cliff Theatre
Andrew Thorn……. John Nevil Maskelyne
Dave Short………. George Cooke
Josh Harper………. Nevil Maskelyne
Review by The Decadent Designer, 1 Star⭐
Firstly, the venue. Not only is it impossible to find but when you do find it you feel like you
are in the wrong place. The grungy aesthetic says anything other than “theatre”. The bar is
impossibly dark, the bar and back bar is untidy and upon entrance I was left completely in the dark,
quite literally, as to where collect my ticket.
When the house was finally announced open I followed a corridor, with little signage, and up some
stairs. I was greeted by a massive, empty, white space. This would be perfect as the foyer with little
renovation needed and would make the patrons feel as if they are in an actual theatre rather than a
run down club!
The front of house and foyer areas are not the only problem.
When I entered the theatre I was shocked by the vast amount of room and impractical “Proscenium”
layout of the venue. Several lanterns had been left on the tri-truss structure, which caged the entire
room rather than a conventional fixed rig, with the plugs just dangling down on to the stage. The
legs were grey curtains that had been simply turned around to show the black panel on the back but
left a hideous grey trim on all sides. The auditorium lighting was badly positioned and made it
difficult to see as you took your seat. I also saw many extension cables plugged into more extension
cables which is just bad practice. Not a promising start before the performance had even begun, not
a least before I noticed than the fire exit sign had been painted over leaving only the white figure in
Sadly the performance added nothing of merit. The first half was too long and by the interval I was
ready to leave. The acting was painful and the horrendous, morph suit, costuming of said
“Mysterious Gentleman” was laughable. Some of the magic elements were okay but failed to
excited or puzzle me. The technical aspects were also as painful as a bad magic act. Badly
configured lighting states and odd changes to the lighting. Two par cans were positioned on two of
the auditorium legs of truss too low to floor so as soon as they were at full they were cooking the
back of your head and projecting the audiences shadows onto the stage. A incredibly annoying and
repetitive snippet of audio played in between every scene. Unfortunately nothing of any merit from
any angle technical or acting.
It’s venues like this that make me really sad as they have so much potential but haven’t had enough
time and care spent in the fabrication. They’re spoilt for space in the venue but the blatant, clumsy
design of the space doesn’t make use of it in the slightest. They should look to amazing fringe
venues such as the Bunker Theatre and Gate Theatre, who have third of the room, as to how to
design their auditorium better.
Title The Mysterious Gentleman
Playwright Jarek Adams
Director Kasia Rozycki
Andrew Thorn as John Nevil Maskelyne
Dave Short as George Cooke
Josh Harper as Nevil Maskelyne
Producers Partners in Mischief Productions & Off The Cliff Theatre
October 31st 2017 – November 18th 2017
Tuesday – Saturday, 7.30pm
Running Time 110 mins (not including interval)
Venue The Courtyard Theatre, Bowling Green Walk, 40 Pitfield Street, N1 6EU
Ticket Price £14/£11 (concessions)
Box Office Ticketweb (ticketweb.co.uk), 0844 477 1000
Partners in Mischief (jarekadams.com/partners-in-mischief/)
Off the Cliff Theatre (offtheclifftheatre.co.uk)