Review: Mr Swallow and the Vanishing Elephant at Pleasance Courtyard

Following on from 2016’s acclaimed show, Houdini, Nick Mohammed returns as his titular character, the extravagant Northerner, Mr. Swallow. With over a decade’s experience, Mohammed is a veteran performer who brings a fresh, brazen take on both comedy and magic.

As one of few with no prior knowledge of Mr. Swallow or his previous shows, I went into The Vanishing Elephant blind, expecting another variation of self-deprecating humour and intentionally shoddy tricks with perhaps the occasional fellatio joke that the show’s title so readily invites. Happily, I was almost instantly proven wrong. This is a show focussed on immersing and entertaining the audience, made even better by the fact that Mohammed himself is visibly immersed in and entertained by his character throughout the performance.

From the show’s opening monologue – which is reminiscent of popping round to your grans for a cup of tea and a (magically conjured) packet of crisps – to the epic yet humble finale of the titular vanishing elephant, this hour is filled with laughs and smiles. Despite some surprisingly impressive stage production featuring flying furniture and objects, Mr. Swallow’s starry-eyed jubilation when his tricks succeed and the many hilarious tangents that he wanders into can often make you forget you’re actually watching a magic show.

These tangents occasionally led to some pacing issues, and unfortunately not every trick hit the mark, however these imperfections just add to the humility of the show, and Mohammed’s showmanship rescues any potential stumbles, often leaving you more entertained than you would be had the trick succeeded.

Mr Swallow is a character born from Nick Mohammed’s passion for performance and this is visible from the get go. He demonstrates that he wants to do things his own way and ultimately succeeds in doing so.

Mr Swallow and the Vanishing Elephant, Pleasance Courtyard, 5-26 Aug, 7.30pm

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