Houdini’s Greatest Escape hits the fun-filled stage in Eastbourne

Almost 100 years ago, Harry Houdini performed his final disappearing trick. Now we get Houdini’s Greatest Escape, on the road with New Old Friends in association with Yvonne Arnaud Theatre.
Houdini's Greatest Escape. Pamela Raith PhotographyHoudini's Greatest Escape. Pamela Raith Photography
Houdini's Greatest Escape. Pamela Raith Photography

Dates on tour include Eastbourne’s Devonshire Park Theatre on March 29-30; and The Hawth, Crawley on April 29.

In this new take on the tale, Harry Houdini is the world’s greatest entertainer but just as his death-defying escapology stunts have him, and his wife Bess, on the cusp of a career-defining performance for King Edward, he finds himself framed for murder by a gang of criminals in cahoots with the chief of police. Can Harry & Bess escape the plot and clear their names? And how is their rival, The Superstar Spiritualist medium, Agatha, involved? All will be revealed in a 39 Steps-esque thriller, played out in New Old Friends’ characteristic style, with Lydia Piechowiak playing the part of Bess.

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“She is very much the brains behind the operation,” Lydia explains. “She’s the Hermione Granger of the operation but the lovely thing about this version is that they are a very happy loving couple.

“She is the wife and also the magician's assistant and I have to say that I was a magician's assistant in my earlier days and I think it's the magician’s assistant that does a lot of the work. The magician is doing the distracting and it's the assistant that is getting on doing the work. But in this, Houdini and his wife are a proper partnership of equals even if Bess is the super brain between them. But I do think that's the heart of it, that you have this very lovely, very modern, very loving relationship and all around it you've got this crazy comedy stuff going on.

“Basically they get framed at the beginning of the show for stealing something and I don't want to give away too much but the whole story is then trying to get back to perform for the big gala and to prove themselves. But you've also got the fake spiritualists. Houdini was not just any escapologist but he also worked against the false mediums that were very popular that were promising people that they would be able to see their lost loved ones again. And that's what he's fighting against. But basically it's a fun-filled romp and what is great is that it appeals to all ages. The publicity for it says it is for ten years and up but I would say there are plenty of little boys aged eight and up that would absolutely love it. It can be whatever you want it to be. It is a lovely family show and for the grown-ups and for the children and for the grandparents. It is really great fun.”

Cast includes Ben Higgins as Harry Houdini, Lydia Piechowiak as Bess Houdini with many other characters played by Kirsty Cox and Adam Elliott. It is written and directed by Feargus Woods Dunlop.

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He said: “This is a show we have wanted to make for years and are over the moon that the company in finally in a position to realise the vision of blending our overtly-theatrical nonsense with some genuine illusions.”