Thursday, 5 November 2009

Simon Drake's House of Magic

Simon Drake’s House of Magic is an experience not to be missed. After six months of looking forward to it, I finally got inside last Friday for the Hallowe’en Special and, nearly a week later, I’m still buzzing.

From the moment I stepped over the threshold of the secret location, just south of the river in London, the atmosphere enveloped me and I felt as if I were in a magical world, dreamlike and lovely. I had been a little bit apprehensive about it all being scary but it wasn’t like that at all; getting cheap laughs from frightening the guests isn’t Simon Drake’s style.

To reach the House, you walk through the enchanted garden, full of low-lying mist, twinkling lights, skulls and tombstones. Inside, the converted pub is a Victorian mansion with lacy cobwebs, bizarre collector’s items of the magick of yore and pictures that appear to be a portrait of Great-Aunt Maud, until you look again and it’s her skeleton.

Before and after the excellent buffet supper, there is plenty of time to look around and enjoy just being in the House of Magic. This is a top-class establishment, where everything runs like clockwork and the staff are friendly and right on the ball. I have rarely felt so well looked after.

Throughout the evening, close-up magicians circulate. We were lucky to have Richard McDougall there on Friday, whose effortless sleight of hand is a joy to behold. He is also a really nice man and he came back to us several times, even though he didn’t have to, because we enjoyed his magic so much.

Every ten minutes or so, Rafe, the cheeky butler, gives a tour of The Haunted Cellar, packed with clever effects and ghostly goings on. Rafe is a fabulous character – I’ve no idea who he is in real life but he is terrific.

You can also sit on the mysterious Whispering Chair and have your fortune told. This is uncannily accurate, so be warned!

At 10 o’clock, it’s showtime. After the warm-up, the Master, the omnipotent Simon Drake, descends to the stage in a cloud of dry ice to perform a series of electrifying feats of the manifestly impossible. Some are gentle and aesthetic, others are gory and weird, but all are executed with an elegant panache that surpasses everything you might have seen before.

From Faust through the Addams Family to the Rocky Horror Show, the world has always been fascinated by the magic of the sexy dark side. At Simon Drake’s House of Magic, you will experience this at its absolute best. The spell it cast on me is still making me smile and drawing me to go back at the first opportunity.

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