• 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
Master of the Macabre
2.0Reviewer's Rating

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.

About The Author

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Emily Louizou has just completed her BA English at UCL and is about to start an MFA in Theatre Directing at Birkbeck, University of London. Over the past eight years she has been actively involved in theatre; directing, writing or acting. She is artistic director and founder of Collide Theatre, a collective of emerging artists producing edgy new work and reimagining classics. Recent directing credits include: Heiner Müller’s Hamletmachine (site-specific, Tanner Street warehouse, 2016), Sarah Kane’s 4.48 Psychosis (Site-specific, Crypt St Pancras Church, 2015), Euripides’ Bacchae (Bloomsbury Theatre, British Museum & International Tour, 2015), Eugene Ionesco’s The Bald Soprano (Camden Fringe 2015), world premiere of Gingerbread (Almeida Theatre, August 2015), Unknown (Bloomsbury Theatre, 2014).


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