Review: A Regular Little Houdini, Chapter Arts

A Regular Little Houdini, Friday 27th January, Chapter Arts Centre. Reviewer: Hannah Hopkins

A Regular Little Houdini encapsulates perfectly the art and power of storytelling.

The performance of A Regular Little Houdini followed the official launch of the Welsh Theatre Awards at Chapter Arts Centre. The one-man play set in Newport is a vibrant coming of age story about the son of a dockworker, who wishes to be just like his hero, Harry Houdini. The production is set in writer and director Daniel Llewellyn-Williams’ hometown of Newport, Wales, and celebrates its history, addressing the area’s industrial past and alluding to the tragedy of the Newport Dock Disaster.

Despite the title, there are very few actual magic tricks within the performance, yet Llewellyn-Williams’ most spectacular trick is his storytelling. The tale is beautifully scripted, set around Harry Houdini’s two visits to Newport, delivered in a colloquial matter which reflects the true honesty and emotion of the working-class protagonist. As a story, this one is beautifully crafted: a young boy’s plight to be just like his escapologist hero is entwined with tales of family, misfortune and luck.

Llewellyn-Williams’ Alan performs his own daring stunt, told grippingly with the help of a single spotlight which mimics entrapment within the silt of the riverbed, turning the theatre into a claustrophobic space. This foreboding scene of entrapment alludes to the tragedy of the Newport Dock Disaster of 1909, which is poignantly retold through the eyes of the childish protagonist.

Throughout the whole of the hour-long performance, Daniel’s delivery remains flawless. Winner of the best actor accolade for the Welsh Theatre Awards 2015, Llewelyn-Williams has a stunning ability to hold the audience’s attention throughout, with very few props. The piece, though without a set, was not compromised: Daniel’s storytelling conjured up incredibly vivid images of early 20th century Newport. His acting complimented the storytelling, mimicking the protagonist’s family members, as well as Houdini himself – adding a whole new dimension to the performance. There are a few threads which run throughout the piece, which are cleverly tied together in the piece’s conclusion, proving this piece to be true feat of storytelling.

by Hannah Hopkins (@snikpohhannah)