Rory loves mind games as he makes his Mischief debut in Magic Goes Wrong

Mind Games: Rory Fairbairn as Mind Mangler in Magic Goes Wrong, on tour at York Theater Royal

BEVERLEY actor Rory Fairbairn makes his debut for the makers of chaos Mischief as the Mind Mangler in Magic Goes Wrong, on tour at the York Theater Royal from Tuesday.

Trained at the Royal Conservatory of Scotland, he has since performed for companies such as the Dead Puppet Society, Lion & Unicorn Theater and Bard In The Botanics, but has always had Mischief in mind.

“I’ve known Mischief for a very long time, maybe 12/13 years,” Rory says. “I remember seeing Lights Camera Action, a show about all the movies that have been made and all the movies to come, performed by Jonathan Sayer of Mischief at the Edinburgh Fringe.

“Then, a few years later, I saw the brilliant The Play That Goes Wrong from the Mischief Theater upstairs in the Pleasance Courtyard, a small venue in the Fringe, and you think, ‘oh, I’ll never work with them!”

Hey ho, that’s the thought gone wrong because here comes Rory, playing the Mind Mangler in Magic Goes Wrong, Mischief’s magically chaotic and comedic disaster show created with American deconstructionist masters of magic Penn & Teller.

“After coming out of lockdown, when I worked at Tesco in Beverley, so many actors I know worked at Tesco, six of them! I made my audition tape with a bunch of stuff you need to read for what’s called “a self-cassette” for Magic Goes Wrong,” Rory recalled.

“Then I went to London for the audition and had a really fun few days working with [magic consultant] Ben Hart, a magician you might recognize from Britain’s Got Talent, where he took us on a magic trial day, making sure we fit the tricks and weren’t claustrophobic, while we were watching these insane props, because none of us had ever done a show like this.”

Magic had never been part of Rory’s acting talent repertoire. “But I’ve always been fascinated by it, like the masked magician on TV revealing how tricks were done. I don’t think he was very popular among magicians!” he says.

Now, as Mischief completes a hattrick of York shows after The Play That Goes Wrong and The Comedy About A Bank Robbery, Rory is part of a touring cast with Sam Hill’s Sophisticato, Kiefer Moriarty’s The Blade and Jocelyn’s Spitzmaus Prah into an unlucky gang of magicians who are having a grand illusion party to raise money for charity. When the magic turns to chaos, the accidents spin out of control, and so does their fundraising goal.

“We were given magic skills to learn, involving cards, but most of the magic is in the towers themselves because they are so well designed and well constructed, although we had to learn a few things “, explains Rory.

“The show is so heartbreaking because everything has to be technically correct to make it look like the magic has gone wrong,” adds the Mind Mangler.

The cast members have not met with Penn & Teller. “Unfortunately not, but the boys of Mischief [writer-directors Sayer, Henry Lewis and Henry Shields] flew to Las Vegas to meet them and write the show with them, and I think Penn Jillette came for the original London tour in 2019.”

If you have in mind to find out what a Mind Mangler does, let Rory elucidate: “He’s a version of the mentalist magician type who claims he can read your mind and talk to the dead or that’s what he believes, but he’s incredibly bad at it and the public ends up being better at his job than him!”

Did something go wrong with Magic Goes Wrong’s tour performances that weren’t planned? “Oh, absolutely! But it’s live theater in general. This show is a fascinating piece because it’s a scripted piece with improvised sections and really good magic, and like any live show, things can go wrong, and when it does, you need to style it. We just work together no matter what goes wrong, and hope the audience doesn’t notice.

Rory loved working with Mischief, directed by Adam Meggido as part of a new cast of mischief-makers. “It’s a brand new company for this tour, a lovely group of people to work with, who get to do wonderful theater, and that’s a sad part of acting: you work so closely together, and then it’s over,” he said.

“We’re not too far from the end of this tour, but I’d love to audition for Mischief again, for any of their shows, because they’re so good at what they do. They’ve really made themselves a niche, and it’s so visible that they attract younger audiences than so many shows, when so often theater isn’t included on the to-do list.

“It’s just wonderful that we can make people laugh so much after the lockdown, which of course we need more than ever right now.”

By Charles Hutchinson

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