Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Review: Leon and the Place Between, Botanic Gardens, Belfast

Magical world where anything is possible

Trust nothing, believe in everything — that’s the message written on a board on stage at this charming children’s show.

And if you believe hard enough, you can make magic happen...

Paul Bosco McEneaney has carved a career out of making magic moments. His shows with Cahoots NI have delighted children right across the country (and beyond), as his performers produce rabbits from hats, dancers from boxes, encourage us to watch flea circuses or winch as someone’s watch is smashed to smithereens — only to appear intact somewhere else entirely. But seriously, how does he do that?

Last year, Cahoots NI introduced us to the Hoffman family — a travelling troupe of circus performers who juggled, swung from ropes, climbed ladders leaning against nothing firmer than air, and carried out a series of breath-taking illusions.

Well, the Hoffmans are back — this time as part of McEneaney’s adaptation of Angela McAllister’s children’s book Leon and the Place Between.

The show keeps all the magic of the original, as it retells the tale of little Leon, who visits a magic show and finds himself part of the action.

McEneaney stays faithful to the Victorian feel of the book, setting the show in a little big top in the grounds of Botanic Gardens. Ursula Burns provides the music and songs which propel the story, which sees Leon become the subject of an illusion performed by the great Abdul Kazan (Mike Maloney, in a rather splendid piece of casting). He steps into a box on stage — and steps out into a brave new world where Kazan’s daughter Poppy plays while waiting her father’s command.

This is entertainment as it used to be. Believe in everything — McEneaney’s undiminished sense of child-like wonder allows him entry to that other place Between — the world where anything is possible, and magic is obligatory.

Grania McFadden

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