“The work is killing. Must find a better way…”
– Houdini’s Diary
It’s 1926. Michigan. Harry Houdini’s final performance, only you don’t know that at the time. You’re here to be amazed, to be awakened with wonder. But the man before you appears frail, and vulnerable. He falls, he fails, and you can’t tear your eyes away.
The same intrigue that hyped the man’s legendary illusions now follows him to a gradual death. Houdini was killed by his craft, a victim of his own relentless ambition. Or peritonitis, if you’re a stickler for the facts…
But Houdini didn’t die underwater, or in handcuffs, or in front of a gasping crowd. He died days later, in a quiet hospital room. There, he drank pho soup and confessed all of his doubts to a surgeon. The audience didn’t get to see that man – they only ever met the marvel.
With some theatrical sleight of hand, the mystics from Counterpilot uncover a mystery stranger than the man himself. Seeking humanness in wonder, we turn our spotlights to the audience. The voyeurs of mortality on the evening of the end.
Can we find ourselves in grand gestures and death-defying stunts? Is there compassion in such curiosity? Or else, what did audiences really want from Houdini?
And for that matter, what do you really want from this theatre of ours? Can we enthral you with our spectacle? Or do we need to die onstage?