Venue: The Lowry
Where: Salford

In the blurb about their Nu-Burlesque season, the Lowry says that, despite its association with cheap titillation and strip shows, the Burlesque art form is a theatrical feast of divine decadence. A dictionary describes it as “a work that ridicules a topic by treating something exalted as if it were trivial or vice versa.”

The Olivier award-winning show Marisa Carnesky’s ‘Magic War fits the second description. War, and in particular the war on terror, could not be a more serious subject yet Marisa handles it in a light-hearted though blood thirsty way. The show is full of mystery and magic.

The story is loosely based on a secret society who invite theatre goers to their ritual. This takes us into a world of violent battles created by horrific tricks taking us into a dark and deceptive new world order. Sultry with shining red lips, Marisa’s sexy voice tells us of her evil plans.  Dressed in purple and tattooed with Masonic symbols, she is mesmerizingly beautiful and mysterious.

Toby, who works with homeless children, can’t resist her allure when he is singled out to come on stage and suffer a terrorist’s fate.   Egged on by the audience, he symbolically loses his finger and hand before being sent to the guillotine.
When no-one else volunteers, he returns to be cut in half with a Black and Decker power drill!  His reward?  A long, sharp knife to keep.

Then there is Marisa’s assistant, Rasp Thorne, who, dressed as a wounded soldier tells us how magic has been used in recent wars siting the case of  Jean Paul Houdin who was used as a target in Algeria in 1856 and survived. He also had his head ‘severed’ in a box of knives.

For me, it is all a bit predictable and I could see Rasp getting changed at stage left. Nevertheless, we are all intimately involved with the 40 minute show and don’t, for one intriguing moment, lose concentration.

Whatever lesson Marisa is trying to teach about the futility of war, it is one we won’t forget not for moral reasons but for the atmosphere in which the point is made.

- Julia Taylor