Review: Linking Rings

Paul Zenon. 'Pic: David Streeter

Paul Zenon. 'Pic: David Streeter

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THERE’S always been something magical about Blackpool, literally, for illusionist Paul Zenon.

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Le Monde, George Street

It was there he discovered his love of the art of smoke and mirrors and making the impossible possible.

It all started with a singular trick, the Chinese Linking Rings, hence the title of his new Fringe show at Le Monde Hotel, on George Street.

Linking Rings, however, is no run-of- the-mill magic show. In the build-up to Zenon’s entrance there is no glamorous assistant, no big announcement, no dazzling light show.

Instead, The Beatles serenade, tempting with the promise of a Magical Mystery Tour as vintage cine reel of Blackpool Pleasure Beach flickers on a screen at the back of a stage littered with an eclectic mix of paraphernalia - a mirror ball, a birdcage, a coat-stand, and a myriad of items, many of which are not all they at first seem.

Pinball Wizard plays from the cassette tape deck Zenon carries, the track allowing him to transport the action back to his early years when, as a 12-year-old, he stumbled into the world of illusion through adverts in comic books, and discovered his hero to this day, Harry Houdini - the eponymous movie starring Tony Curtis introduced him to the great escapologist.

Nostalgia is a powerful tool in a writer’s armoury and in this autobiographical piece it instantly conjures vivid images of the past.

From there Zenon charts the parallels between his own life and those of Houdini’s assistant, Jim Collins, the man responsible for Houdini’s most thrilling spectacle, The Chinese Water Torture Cell.

A slide show of rare images of Collins (who coincidentally shares a name with Zenon whose real name is Paul Collins) serves to heighten the magician’s fascination with his subject.

That he is consummate in the art of sleight of hand is in no doubt. Throughout the piece Zenon deftly performs beautifully delivered illusions unannounced, blink and you’ll miss them.

His enthusiasm for the world he has now been part of for four decades is infectious, his easy manner makes him the perfect raconteur, but there’s a rawness too in his delivery, a heartfelt emotion, never more in evidence than when he speaks of his own ‘Jim Collins’, his mentor Bill Thompson, a memory which brings us back to Blackpool, where it all started in a little joke shop opposite the South Pier.

Blackpool is indeed a magical place... in more ways than one.

Until 31 August