HEY PRESTO! (1922)
Maskelyne's Theatre, London
The curtains rise disclosing a darkened stage save for the brilliantly lighted window of the domicile wherein a young married couple are ‘listening-in.’ The programme being voted ‘slow,’ the lady expresses a wish for something more exciting, and a Wizard, one ‘Ether Wave,’ materialises out of the blackness and offers to transport the pair to the realms of magic. The window blind is drawn, the shadow is seen thereon of the two kissing—an instant later the silhouette vanishes, so does the window, and the Wizard introduces husband and wife to a scene backed by massive gates. They slowly open to disclose nothing but the scenery behind. Closing again, the gates for a moment become transparent, they grow opaque and re-open to reveal a Beauty Chorus. Mr. Fred Culpitt makes his appearance, produces refreshing beverage from a handkerchief, knots the latter and vanishes a borrowed watch—this to a tuneful ditty. Miss Jan Glenrose, who assists in this interlude (and with the amusing Poster Illusion), wishes herself at the seaside. She pops into a telephone call office and presumably her wish is gratified for on the box being swung round on its castors a gentleman steps forth—the lady has gone.
Mr. Rupert Hazell (as a Curate in search of talent for a village concert) now provides much front cloth fun and retires to give place to Mr. Clive Maskelyne in a trick film. The film at length discloses Miss Stephanie Stephens, who obligingly steps out of the picture in being. A concerted item with the Beauty Chorus precedes Mr. Maskelyne's presentation of ‘The Elastic Lady’. A very large framework in the form of a Pillory, but fitted with many doors, is exhibited. A lady takes her place behind the doors, after they have been thrown open for inspection, and places head, hands and feet through small apertures made for the purpose. These openings are in the form of panels on the large doors. With the help of assistants and certain cords, the lady’s extremities, as also her head, travel to the extreme width and height of the framework. Returning to a normal position, the doors are again opened to disclose the fair assistant none the worse for the ordeal.
An amusing sketch, ‘The Ghost Club,’ runs somewhat as follows : Two visitors spending New Year's Eve at an alleged haunted house, are importuned by the aged landlady as to the manner of serving the next morning’s breakfast. Receiving instructions, oft repeated, she eventually departs. Midnight strikes and there is the sound of rattling chains. A form appears in the darkness. Terror attacks the watchers. The form grows clearer—to disclose the old lady in night attire. As the curtain falls she plaintively asks, ‘Did you say fried eggs?’
A further act opens with a travesty Concert Party wherein a conjurer, juggler, etc., do their worst. Mr. Clive Maskelyne introduces ‘A Picture Puzzle,’ a considerably altered version of Mr. Len. J. Sewell's ‘Dance of the Automatons’. Mammoth toy bricks are stacked in a cupboard and mysteriously change, first into a selected picture, then into the living counterpart of a second painting. In its new form a finished illusion.
In ‘The Furniture Shop’ Mr. Culpitt makes splendid comedy with his Doll's House Illusion’, introducing models of trick furniture with great effect. ‘Through the Ages’ an altogether charming scene by Mr. Jasper Maskelyne and Miss Dorita Belmont, first introduces a boy and girl making daisy chains. Then the pair are seen happily married and finally as Darby and Joan. The various living tableaux materialise and seemingly float towards the audience. Mr. Rupert Hazell's funny item, ‘How it is done,’ includes a good travesty of the ‘Sawing through’ problem , and in ‘The Palace of Palms,’ the court magician produces the whole Beauty Chorus from a massive cauldron erected on the stage and transposes an assistant into a bewildered hunter of Egyptian treasures. Mr. Culpitt, in another scene, presents his brilliantly amusing magical act, Delco and Partner give a splendid juggling turn, and there is a further amusing sketch entitled ‘A Moving Story.’
The show runs quickly, so quickly indeed that the finale, in which the whole company take part, comes as a sudden reminder that in this new era of magic, the producer, Mr. P. T. Selbit, has solved the problem of providing an entertainment without a tedious moment from the rise to the fall of the curtain.
The humour, song, dance and melody of the Revue proper, does not come within our scope, but tribute might well be paid to each and every artiste. It is to be hoped that ‘Hey Presto !’ is but the forerunner of many similar and equally pleasant entertainments.
Source: The Magic Wand, Vol 13, No 122, George Johnson, Jun-Sep 1922.