Houdinis Greatest Escape REVIEW

Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford – Touring the UK until 30 June 2024.

Reviewed by Rebecca Lobb


A New Old Friends production presents a comedic evening of illusions, frolics and whodunnits.

The story starts with Harry Houdini (Ben Higgins) and his wife Bess (Lydia Piechowiak) in England, desperately seeking a performance slot at King Edward’s gala. Harry knows this performance will help showcase his death-defying escapology stunts on a global scale. And with Bess as his loyal side kick nothing is stopping him…until he is framed for murder by a gang of criminals who have a secret pact with the local police. So can Harry and Bess clear their names and prove who the real murderer is?

Higgins and Piechowiak delivered a very playful and whimsical performance as a couple, and Piechowiak’s personality particularly shone in the second act highlighting that behind every successful man, there is a woman like Bess who is ready to protect. This is one thing the writers Heather and Fearg really wanted to highlight in this story.

Undoubtedly the star of the show was Adam Elliott who played many characters including Hardeen, Chief Doyle and the Barkers. He displayed high energy throughout and provided perfect comedic timing. He was also supported alongside Kirsty Cox who played several female characters, such as Ma Barker, Officer Dibble and Agatha. Together they were both flawless, and at times I even considered if they had body-doubles because they had so many different characters to portray, often in the same scene!

This play is still in its very early stages, and a few tweaks could be made, such as the train rooftop scene left a little to be desired, and you could often see a performer changing an accessory or pulling the curtain behind the scenes, which was slightly distracting. The set also appeared quite low budget, but I commend the cast, as they not only acted but they also managed all the props and scene changes.

It was very clear from the beginning that this is a very hardworking cast of just four people, sometimes playing multiple roles, who offered a lot of laughs, magical illusions and charisma. It was enjoyable from start to finish!