Tag Archives: Scott Penrose

“Influence” at Collective Theatre

Waiting for this new play from Stockroom to start is more interesting than usual – the audience are invited to pop their secrets on a postcard. It’s clear the revelations are going to play some part in what comes next – a performance that seems like a magic show that everyone gets involved with.

The framework is a magician telling the story of his family, a grandfather who trod the musical hall boards and a Harry Potter-loving nephew who died tragically young. Of course, the stakes are raised – there’s going to be a dangerous stunt never performed before! And more audience participation than I’ve ever seen – nearly half the crowd end up doing something or other.

Put together, the storytelling and magic make a great showcase for Kit Young. Along with ‘dad jokes’ and generally strong comedy skills, Young balances a convivial air with sinister touches. As for the tricks, many deliberately old fashioned, even hammy, they are perfectly delivered and very entertaining. Consultant Scott Penrose deserves a lot of credit for the work here, but Young really is magic, a natural showman with plenty of charisma.

Young is playing a part too, of course…when it comes to sleights of hand – you might forget this is a play with clever writers behind it: Georgia Crowther, Chris York and Maheni Arthur worked together as part of Stockroom’s writers room. References to Chekhov intrigue, while bringing out a parallel between the conjurer’s art and contemporary social media is interesting, if a touch strained. What really impresses is how details shape our perception – the odd fact is mixed in with a lot of misdirection. It’s great to try and spot, and fun when you fail to.

Under director James Hillier’s careful hand, the finale is terrific. Far too good to spoil – even if that means some credit can’t be given where it’s due. Not one but two twists arrive… and quickly! Set up by this talented team, our expectations, especially regarding all that participation, are used against us and we see how much influence they have had: the play makes its point and is a lot of fun along the way.

Until 2 December 2023


Photo by Hanna Kovacs