HEY PRESTO! (1947)

Westminster Theatre, London

On Easter Monday the Maskelyne company returned, for a four-week season, to the Westminster Theatre with a second edition of the all-magic show ‘Hey Presto !’

A broadcast by Jasper on the previous Saturday, plus very good press notices in Tuesday's paper, gave the new season a good send-off, and a well-filled house saw Tuesday's matinee with your reviewer. 


Abracadabra has a reputation for truthful reports, so it must be said (as a personal opinion) that the first half of the show ‘drags’ somewhat; amongst other things, it is too long, running for over an hour and a quarter. The second half, which embraces a ‘new angle,’ was full of interest, however. Let us take the first half first. 


A newcomer, Francis Watts, opened the bill. A young man with a nice manner, he has something different in offering to conjure with any objects submitted by the audience; on this occasion he showed considerable resource faced with a large nailfile, a whistle, and more common objects such as a cigarette-lighter. 


Robert Harbin, obviously an old favourite with many, opened with a quick-fire series of productions from a newspaper—a table lamp, bouquet, firebowl, and the Hughes-Stanley ‘Phantom Radio’. (Complete collapse of those who said it wouldn't work.) Other of his items were Borrowed Watch in Nest of Boxes and his Inexhaustible Box. 


Kuda Bux then presented several effects; in this writer's opinion it is a mistake for this artist to be allotted two ‘spots’ on the bill, since his ‘X-Ray Eye’ feature (which opened the second half) stands on its own as sheer mystery and the presentation of standard tricks, however well done, by the same man, detracts from this superb feature which stands alone. 


An avalanche of some thirty children greeted Jasper Maskelyne with his ‘Thru the Eye of a Needle’; news of his winning way with children had reached the writer previously and he certainly did his stuff on this occasion. The first half closed with a new illusion, ‘The Haunted House,’ which had little of mystery but should be most entertaining when it settles down.


After Kuda Bux's sightless vision presentation came the ‘new angle’—a joint act by Jasper and Robert Harbin. Jasper's vanish of a playing radio whilst Robert did a Torn and Restored Newspaper set the pace; then came the Double Box illusion presented more effectively than we have ever seen it done before, and this was followed by the Human Pincushion, also delightfully re-dressed with the intervention of a comic little man with an umbrella, who kept popping in and out of the show unexpectedly. Jasper’s Chinese Rings, Ropes and Rings, ‘Watch your Watch,’ Sympathetic Silks, and Spirit Painting were interwoven with Robert’s skilful juggling, whilst possibly the most effective thing in the show was a Circus Vanish, startling, slick and smooth, with Jasper as the commentator and Robert as the ringmaster. The finale—built up to a stageful of enormous playing cards—was new and effective, bringing down the curtain on a second half full of the interesting and unexpected. 


The accompaniment was on two pianos ; in addition to those mentioned, three charming lady assistants and Mr. Harbin’s ‘Hendriks’ took part. The Stage Manager was Alistair Maskelyne.


Magicians who want to see what can be done with quite standard props, used in a different way should certainly see the show.⁠


Source: Abracadabra, Vol. 3, No. 63, 12 April 1947. Charles Goodliffe.