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  • Stephen Simmons

James Phelan - The greatest showman

James Phelan - The greatest showman


Last month I watched a performance by James Phelan called “The greatest showman”. It was a showing at the Hanger farm arts centre, Southampton, which has lots of great shows.


I was supposed to go along with my son, but unfortunately he has been unwell recently so I went on my own.


I was actually extremely tired, A bad night's sleep the previous night, and this day I had just travelled to London for an afternoon performance, followed by a wedding performance then straight back to Southampton for a quick change and off to the show.


This was the first time I went to a show like this on my own, it was certainly an awkward feeling. From walking in and lingering in the foyer on my own, doing the standard check and recheck of the phone for any….ANY facebook notification or message. Luckily I did have a few updates from BBC news, more covid faff I normally try to ignore but on this occasion maybe it will be a welcomed update?... “3 case of the new variant!...” ah, actually piss off ya fear mongering nit-wits.


Anyway, I was the first into the show area, because...you know...I had nothing to be lingering any longer in the foyer for.


A red glow was filling the space and a “James Phelan” projected image on the screen at the rear of the stage, and an apple with pins sticking out of it centre stage.


The music was uplifting and funky - I wish I new what the correct genre would be...I would say maybe a light swing / jazzy type tunes (definitely the technical name for it).


I had front row seats...well, SEAT. and awaited the show. It appeared to be a nicely filled venue, very few empty seats, except for the big empty seat next to me which oddly kept looking bigger.


Whilst waiting a lovely man I had done a performance for a few month ago came across to say hi and we had a quick chat. Then there was another Breaking news vibration from my trouser pocket: “6 cases of the new variant detected in Scotland.” - That was my cue to flight mode my phone before the next update announcing the end of the world pings up...at least if I flight mode my phone I might be able to get through the whole show before learning of a new variant that is 100% a thousand times worse than anything ever.


Finally the show started. Lots of energy from James. Getting the audience whipped up ready for a night of cheering and shouting. I noticed at that exact moment how strange a feeling it is to be flinging your arms in the air, and shouting enthusiastically when not joined with anyone else. I realised that theatre, or more specifically magic shows are better when you can look a twat with a friend, or in my case, my five year old son. It was a fun start.


Straight from the start it was evident this would be a slow paced show. The first half was an hour long and had 4 effects in it.


The effect however where very well performed and it was definitely a mix of magic and talking / joking. Everyone was highly captivated though!


Of course being in the front row, on my own let me be the butt of a few jokes. But I am ok with being the butt of the jokes, and only really found myself crying on the drive home, and even then probably only for 10 minutes or so...Jokes aside the banter was very funny and James had a good connection with everyone in the audience. Everyone was laughing, cheering, shouting and doing all the things you would expect from a good magic show.


I wont give away what exact magic happened in the first half, but it had some very good bits, lots of mind reading - James was able to know the words a spectator merely thought of, the crowd was extremely impressed, as was I!. It also involved some good stories about his uncle Paul Daniels, what an amazing uncle to have!


The end of the first half had a really great effect, and it was performed really well. Its one that's always worth the price of admission to see. It was a take on an effect popularised originally by Houdini where the pins are swallowed...I wont give away what happens next buts is pretty amazing!



A good start so far. The interval kicked in for 20 minutes. I spent this time chatting with James on messenger. We know each other loosely through magic circles, although this would be the first time we ever met in person.


The Second half was a hypnosis section, people's feet stuck to the floor and a few other hypnotic miracles. I perform hypnosis myself, so its always a treat to see others doing it, and doing it well. James was able to have 2 spectators lose the ability to read, which was very funny to watch as they tried to read words the audience could all see! It felt like a demonstration of the abilities of the human mind to do remarkable things instead of a hypnosis show, which was definitely a good way to go!


James also demonstrated some top quality card effects during the end of the show, I was asked to come on stage and like magic, the chosen card appeared under my watch.


After the show, I stayed behind and had a quick chat with James, he is a lovely down to earth gentleman and it was great to catch up having been connected on Facebook for a long time. Turns out we even both had the same residency many years ago.


Overall its certainly a very enjoyable show, and worth heading out for a night of magic, if you get a chance, you wont regret going to see James Phelan: The greatest showman


You can see his other shows HERE


I would go ahead and grab a ticket :)


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Stephen Simmons

Stephen Simmons Magic circle magician