Preview: The Illusion

In a way, all theatre is magic and illusion. It’s something that is perhaps often overlooked in the world of stage, but all a theatrical production does is to weave an intricate web of facades and deceive viewers, and all a magic production does is seek to distract and bemuse an audience. TFTV’s next production seeks to embrace that shared world, however.


TFTV’s production of The Illusion, by Corneille and freely adapted by Tony Kushner, is a fusion of Early Modern drama and magical performance. The play challenges perceptions and the very reality of theatre. Whilst TFTV promise a new take on this classic, it does, however, maintain its status as a dark comedy, rooted in the French baroque and classical traditions.

The 18th century was a period of scepticism and rational doubt of unscientific and unproven manifestations of the world. Enlightenment thinkers were determined to wash away the fragments of superstition and romanticism that clung to earlier times of thought, and this play is no different. In that way it is a very modern thing, something that lends itself to adaptation in our age. Corneille is very sceptical about the force of love, and this twists his conception of comedy and tragedy. There is no funny, cheery ending without a grim, dark ending.

Kushner makes use of this sceptical connection of our two worlds. His theatre is a world of doubt and confusion, something that promises to bring magic back to where it belongs – on the stage of theatre. After all, magic has had a long history in theatre. Although its roots go far deeper, the late 19th century, the golden age of magic, was embracing of magic as both  entertainment and as a discipline of stage craft. These days, magic and theatre have gone their own ways, with perhaps less people realising that most of magic is performance, and is not about the prop or the trick. But perhaps things are changing, and the announcement that MagicSoc has been involved in putting the magic back into producing The Illusion is to be welcomed. It promises to be quite a performance.

The plot line is mildly traditional. Pridamant, the lead character, is seeking his estranged son. But questions impact his every move, and the influence of magic, doubt and shifting reason challenge this traditionalism. How far will he go? And how far can the forces of the supernatural be trusted along the way? In this exploration of the close ties between love and loathing, bleakness and comedy, and magic and theatre, anything, it seems, could happen.

Watch TFTV’s trailer here:


The Illusion by Corneille, adapted by Tony Kushner, will be on at The Scenic Stage, Theatre, Film and Television (TFTV), Heslington East Campus, on Thursday 6th and Saturday 8th March 2014 at 7.30pm. Buy tickets online at YorkStore Tickets, at Vanbrugh Stalls and in the foyer of TFTV. Combined tickets for Tartuffe and The Illusion are also available.