Fringe: Mr Swallow - Houdini

Mr Swallow - Houdini, Pleasance
Mr Swallow - Houdini, Pleasance

Mr Swallow - Houdini

Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33)

Rating: *** (from seven)

Nick Mohammed is coming through the ranks in the world of comedy - he’s appeared in everything from Miranda to the new Ab Fab movie.

Mr Swallow is one of his lesser known characters, and one you will warm to. Might take a few minutes, but the chaotic, hapless charm within him wins out in this sort-of tribute to Houdini.

Mr Swallows is the performer who is under-rehearsed and ill-prepared for anything, or at least that’s what he makes you think. Two years ago it was a useless re-telling of the story of Dracula, now he tackles the world famous escapologist.

As you enter the theatre Mr Swallows is already curled up in a glass tank, helpfully reading a book on Houdini, while his pianist provides a suitable pre-show soundtrack.

He’s joined by fellow comedians Kieran Hodgson and David Elms, two excellent supporters who add to the sketches and dafter-than-daft plot which embraces songs and sketches.

And it’s huge fun once you get into the character and warm to Mr Swallows. He sounds like someone straight out of clubland in Leeds, and chatters away non-stop as if going off script - but the show is a lot more structured than he suggests.

And, most importantly, is laugh out funny - as well as silly and rather engaging - , and it cracks along at a decent rate, bouncing from daft gags and sketches to demonstrating the Houdini skills Mr Swallows actually possesses by pulling off some nifty escapology tricks with aplomb that is in stark contrast to the bumbling nature of our host.

And that tank he emerged from at the start?

Well, it is central to the finale as a tap is turned on and it’s filled with water to recreate the great Houdini trick.

Before that we go through a comical seance, and Mr Swallows sidekicks both get their share of the spotlight to make this much, much more than a one man show. Collectively, they are a slick team who make the haphazardness at the heart of the main character rather endearing.

The songs are great too, and the finale … well, maybe even the Houdini aficionados in the audience might approve.

And if the great escapologist himself had a sense of humour even he’d smile from up on high ...

Runs ends August 28

Allan Crow