by Laura Ferguson
Mrs Alexander enters in the fashion of a silent movie, with exaggerated movements and no dialogue as she places utensils upon a table. She pauses, staring us down with a loaded look until we clap and cheer before she gracefully curtsies and leaves the stage. Her husband, Mr Alexander, follows in this wordless introduction, performing the classic “stubborn suitcase” mime trick to prepare us for the spirited nature of the show. I can tell, even now, that much of what we will experience today will be a cavalcade of carnival accoutrements and I’m grinning already in anticipation.
The wonderful Lizzie Tollemache and David Ladderman are the couple behind Mr and Mrs Alexander. Being married in real life, their personal chemistry bleeds into the show, though amazingly no bleeding actually occurs during their set despite some dangerous feats. The charisma and charm they exude are great boons to their illusions. During one of the first stunts, they execute, I watch in wonder, sitting forward, craning my neck to see where those damn balls go. Even as Mr. Alexander explains the trick, my eyes can’t keep up, and, woah! How’d they turn into that!
While Ladderman’s showmanship does a lot to sell this particular act, the collaboration between magic advisor Mike Hines, and director Mike Friend, feels diligent and thorough, helping to produce the best results. Even sitting in the most angled positions the theatre allows, the illusions are executed with aplomb. Also adding to the atmosphere is Robbie Ellis’ original music, building tension while still maintaining the shows fun, light-hearted vibe.
The show evolves as the story of Mr and Mrs Alexander meeting, marrying, performing and scoundrelling together, which is a brilliant method of segueing between tricks. Their banter is fantastic, with both each other and the audience, and being from Oamaru (Steampunk Capital of the World!), I loved the references to the Criterion Hotel and the other historic streets of my home town. This did give me the unfair advantage of visualising the scene vividly, but the setting of New Zealand in antiquity is brilliant nonetheless.
The audience tonight is very eager to help out and become part of the show, and a lack of the unwilling miasma that plague so many other shows adds so much to this one. There are also some audience-wide hypnotic illusions which make us gasp in awe at the spectacle. The telekinesis and psychic predictions were particularly reactionary. Oohs, aahs, wows and shouts undulate, coursing through the space, the cheeky, self-assured grins of our hosts basking in our effusive wonderment.
My only wish was that the Big Reveal at the end had more build-up, a bit more tension. A bit more pause for the ultimate cause, then effect. However, the vaude-villainous stars of Mr and Mrs. Alexander Sideshows & Psychics! display wit, expertise and abilities I will ponder over for a long time. As I head out into the night, not only am I rugged up in a coat, but am cloaked in the lingering mystery of just how they accomplished those tricks. I doubt I’ll ever know, but the truth of things doesn’t really matter when Mr and Mrs Alexander’s mysticism is so fun to believe in.
Mr and Mrs Alexander Sideshows & Psychics! is playing at Circa Theatre from Tuesday 18th April to Saturday 6th May. Tickets can be found at Circa’s website.