Mystique - Horseshoe Bar, Blackpool Pleasure Beach

There's more to magic than meets the eye - and there's much more to Mystique than magic.

Billed as "a cabaret of magic and illusion," it would be fairer to add "and song and comedy and choreography" to give anything like a full description of what this well-established part of the Blackpool summer scene is all about.

Granted master illusionist Richard De Vere (right) is still the centre stage headliner for much of the proceedings and no matter how many times we see he and his various glamorous attendants popping in and out of their claustrophobic boxes there are still the "how?" and "wow!" factors to his performance.

The actual novelty of flaming pyramids, tanks of water, rotary saw and the sheer injustice of impaling the Temptress of Desire prior to slicing her into eight may have worn thinner over the years - but the skill with which the feats are achieved are as impressive as ever.

Likewise Nikki Alexander's choreography is essential to the show's success - the Guardians and Spirits (or dancers if you prefer) effortlessly go from Goths to Geishas, bunnies to be-boppers and all things in between to an East meets West soundtracks of Billy Idol, Peter Gabriel and Screaming Jay Hawkins et al.

There are live vocals too. Eighteen-year-old Krystal Cooper is back for a second summer - her voice as spine-tinglingly soulful as ever and her stage confidence much increased. She is joined by

Amanda Kuppan, last year a member of the group Cloud Nine at The Star, this year revealing a more West End string to her vocal bow as well as bringing her dancing talents to the company numbers.

Also new to this year's show is locally-based funnyman Phil Walker. He opens the show with some good topical material and as his solo spot in the second half reveals, his time on the comedy club circuit has done his delivery and timing a power of good.

What few people would expect though is the vocal talent he reveals when joined by the dancers for the gospel style send-up, would Jesus Wear A Rolex.

With the eye-catching delights of Hannah Telford and Kelly Willars as the Temptress of Desire and Enchantress of Passion it would be easy to overlook the hard working trio of males - Mark Lawlor, Ian Oswald and Ernesto Valdez - if it wasn't for their boundless energy and athleticism throughout the production

Throw in disappearing cats, a materialising Schnorbitz, dancing rabbits and a delicately placed python and Mystique continues to be a winner.

Robin Duke

May 10th, 2004