There's a nervous tremor in the audience as the band warms up, before knife thrower Ray the Blade emerges from the audience with his glamorous assistant – closely followed by the sexy Cerberus sisters, the world's first Siamese 'striplets'. The ensemble takes a little time to warm up after a late start, but the opening number Tonight at the Empire is neatly choreographed and there's a strong rapport in evidence between the susp-acts. The entertainment value is doubled as the cast members switch deftly between showcasing their cabaret skills and supporting the band as versatile instrumentalists.
Writer Oliver Lansley gives a fantastic comic performance as the compère, and the magic tricks seamlessly woven into the tragic Mephisto's song are enchanting to behold – but the highlight of the show is the charming, humorous and entirely wordless story of talented mime artist Gaston Gasteau (Philip Oakland).
The largely rhyming script is fast-paced – if rather unsubtle in places – although occasionally the overall impetus is lost between each highly-absorbing act. Still the high quality and inventiveness of each performance – be it magic, ventriloquism, mime or trip-tease – is undeniable, making for a dark-humoured and memorable evening's entertainment.
- Harriet Chandler
(Reviewed at the Lowry)