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The Vaults, London

Master of the Macabre is Benedict Barber’s first solo stage show, but unfortunately not as impressive or terrifying as the performer himself states in the beginning. The setting of the Vaults in Waterloo creates an amazingly eerie atmosphere and makes you expect for something spine-chilling, but once you enter the auditorium the set design by Elizabeth Wright is somewhat unoriginal and gives the impression of any magic show TV set.

Barber’s magic tricks are well performed, but lack grandeur or creativity. He certainly knows how to handle the audience well, as this is very much an interactive show where audience participation is crucial. A few volunteers are picked up to take part in magic tricks – but the most impressive one is when the whole audience is asked to write down the name of a person they know who recently passed away and then place it in the box on stage. Later on, Barber will perform a trick where he reveals a few of these names. This was one of most exciting moments. But not many more followed…

Writer Matthew Stradling has made a good effort to create a story and structure out of Barber’s life, but the pompousness with which this is delivered by the performer undermines it considerably and fails to reach the audience.

Master of the Macabre can be a fun night out if you have no expectations, but it fails to rise to something more than just a normal magic show with tricks that everyone has seen at some point in our lives.

  • Circus
  • By Matthew Stradling
  • Director: Tony Middleton
  • Performed by Benedict Barber
  • The Vaults, London
  • Until 1 November 2015
  • Review by Emily Louizou
  • 16 October 2015

About The Author

Reviewer (UK)

Emily Louizou is a professional theatre director based in London. She trained on the MFA in Theatre Directing at Birkbeck College, University of London and at Drama Centre. Prior to this, she completed her BA English at UCL. Over the past eight years, she has been actively involved in theatre; directing, writing or acting. She is the artistic director and founder of Collide Theatre, a collective of emerging artists producing visually exciting new work and reimagining classics. Her last production - TROY - was a new contemporary opera funded by the Arts Council England and based on a modern Greek text that Emily translated and directed. See more of Emily’s work on her website:

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