MR and MRS ALEXANDER: Sidehows and Psychics

Circa Two, Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki St, Waterfront, Wellington

18/04/2017 - 06/05/2017

Fortune Theatre, Dunedin

29/03/2017 - 01/04/2017

BUSKERS BOUTIQUE, Old Boy’s Theatre, Christ’s College, Christchurch

18/01/2015 - 24/01/2015

World Buskers Festival 2015 | SCIRT

Production Details

1888. New Zealand. Mr Alexander bends objects with his mind. Mrs Alexander solves crimes with telepathy. Crowds gasp at their heart stopping finale- The Possum Trap. Meet the most notorious couple in colonial showbiz! 

Award winning duo David Ladderman and Lizzie Tollemache (as seen with The Loons Circus Theatre Company, The Court Theatre, Circotica, World Buskers Festival, The Christchurch Arts Festival) are back from a triumphant five month tour of the US, UK and Canada. Catch the exclusive homecoming season and enjoy a play which includes mentalism, illusion and real sideshow stunts! 

Nails will be hammered into body parts. Objects will defy the laws of physics. And if you’re lucky, two carnies will fall in love.  

18-24 Jan 2015 

BUSKERS BOUTIQUE, Old Boy’s Theatre, Christ’s College 
8.30pm 60 mins 


29 March – 1 April 2017, 7pm

18 April – 6 May 2017
Tues-Sat, 7.30pm
Sun, 4.30pm 
Book @ 

Theatre , Comedy ,

1 hr

Terrific tale of tricksters

Review by Ewen Coleman 22nd Apr 2017

It is always fascinating to see a group develop a show around a little-known piece of history, especially when it is New Zealand history.  And of even more interest is that in the case of Rollicking Entertainment’s Mr & Mrs Alexander: Sideshows & Psychics, the focus is on the entertainment industry of the late 19th century.

Apparently, the Alexanders were a husband and wife team travelling around New Zealand performing at fairs and in country halls a series of magic and illusionist tricks with psychic transference being a major part of their repertoire. They eventually ended up in Auckland for one big final gig in the Town Hall, after which they disappeared, never to be seen again. [More


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As subjectively astonishing as it is objectively fascinating

Review by John Smythe 19th Apr 2017

Plausible is the word for this “married carnie duo”: Lizzie Tollemache and David Ladderman. The way they tell it we really do believe that, in 1888, his William Alexander really did see her at the Empire Theatre in Lyttelton, hammering a nail into her face. And she (did she have a name before she became his Mrs?) really did see him perform the classic cups and balls trick at the Oamaru Street Market; as magic now as it was 500 years ago.

We even believe we’re back in the 19th century when they re-enact the tricks and illusions that made Mr and Mrs Alexander so famous back then. Of course such willing suspension of disbelief is the basic currency of live theatre and here it is ramped up even more as we are collectively amazed by their feats. In the very intimate Circa Two, live before our very eyes, they defy reason and compel us to believe in the supernatural.  

Opening night is graced with a large contingent of Steam Punk exponents: “The first time we’ve faced a front row that’s better-dressed than we are,” quips Ladderman. He and Tollemache establish an instant rapport with all of us, their relaxed and often casual air making the sudden revelations of their undoubted skills all the more impressive.  

Audience members readily assist in Mrs A’s display of mentalism, whereby she, blindfolded, receives their unspoken – but visible to us – choices of Suspect, Motive and Location in a murder mystery scenario.

The Wheel of Mesmerism draws us all – or the 80 percent of us who are susceptible, anyway – into its vortex and proves how profoundly our minds can play tricks on us. An expanding experience, one might say.

As an interval is called (just half-an-hour into the show), attention is drawn to a large sealed manila envelope upstage centre and a guardian is appointed to ensure it remains untouched. It’s important we know this …

Ladderman warms us back up with some skilful three-baton juggling. Then a couple step up for a Telepathic Sensitivity item that is truly freaky in its effectiveness. And all the while subtle interpolations have been tracking the evolution of Mr and Mrs Alexander’s relationship and its inevitable consequences … They’re up to something in ‘real life’, beyond the limits of their show, although they’ll use illusion to make it real; to make us reel.

Involving the Mayor and Mayoress of Auckland, circa early 1890s, the climactic Possum Trap trick is literally heart-stopping, or pulse-stopping anyway, for the intrepid Mrs A who is willing to risk anything, it seems, for the greater good of our entertainment. Or is something else afoot here?

You’ll have to see the show to find out. As for what’s in the envelope … What? Really? How could they possibly …?

Mr and Mrs Alexander’s Sideshow and Physics is as subjectively astonishing as it is objectively fascinating. It’s a rarely seen genre in Wellington. Abetted by their Director Mike Friend, Composer Robbie Ellis, Magic Advisor Mike Hines and Operator Amber Molloy, Lizzie Tollemache and David Ladderman have crafted an entertainment with exceptional skill, panache and humour. Don’t miss it. 


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19th Century mystery and illusion wows 21st century crowds

Review by Kimberley Buchan 03rd Apr 2017

The stage is at first unprepossessing. Then Lizzie Tollemache and David Ladderman sashay in with a wicked glint in their eye and things get interesting. They play Mr and Mrs Alexander, the shady but thoroughly endearing Victorian illusionists.

The first trick you see is a beautiful woman hammering 4 inches of steel into her face. We then get a run down on how the cup and ball trick works. After this these two delightful actors bring in the threads of the story that they use to weave their illusions together into a cohesive show.

Mr and Mrs Alexander meet as street performers. They fall in love. It is a beautiful relationship that is clearly meant to be. Together they build a name for themselves and create a show worthy of the Mayor and Mayoress of 19th century Auckland to attend. Amidst possum traps, gold jewellery and a game of Cluedo they manage to pull off a massive con that leaves the city reeling.

Mike Friend directs two talented performers in Tollemache and Ladderman. It is evident they really like their characters in the way they savour their every move on stage.  They handle the audience with an ease that is pure smooth skill. Their responses to whatever the audience deems fit to throw at them win them hearty laughs and the favour of all. Their improvisation is also met with delight even when things don’t go exactly to plan. 

The best part of this performance is the fact that the cynical, tech savvy 2017 audience is sitting there and ‘ooohing’ in genuine wonder at the same tricks of mystery and illusion that wowed the 19th century crowds. 

Rollicking Entertainment have brought metallic interpolation, befuddling hypnotic illusion, confounding legerdemain and inexplicable telekinesis to Dunedin and the audience loves it and wants more. We particularly want to know the answer to the burning question at the end: what is in the envelope?

If you missed in in Dunedin, Mr and Mrs Alexander: Sideshow & Psychics opens at Wellington’s Circa Two on 18 April. 


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Charming postmodern sideshow

Review by Erin Harrington 19th Jan 2015

In a festival that showcases the best of the world’s modern day circus performers, it’s fitting that we have a homegrown show that celebrates our ongoing fascination with the weird and the wondrous through an historical tale of con artists and carnival trickery. 

The show’s frame story, set in the late 19th century, is that of Mr and Mrs Alexander, a pair of mysterious high-end carnies whose very particular set of skills made them a notorious fixture in colonial New Zealand’s fairs, parlours, and halls. The elegant Mrs Alexander (Lizzie Tollemache) is a renowned psychic with a penchant for hammering nails into her face, and the wry Mr Alexander (David Ladderman) is an adept magician. The story of their rise to fame and their shocking gala performance for the mayor at the Auckland Town Hall is a vehicle for a whole grab-bag of sideshow trickery – sleight-of-hand, mentalism, illusions, painful looking stunts and mesmerism. 

Christchurch-based Tollemache and Ladderman, recently returned from a successful northern hemisphere tour, are assured in the way that they guide the audience through their substantial bag of tricks.

The show’s storytelling conceit is reminiscent of Ladderman’s outstanding King Lear redux Battle of the Bastards, which won him the award for best local act at last year’s festival, for the two switch quickly between the roles of genial MCs and character actors, leading us from the pair’s first meeting to their tours round the country and, ultimately, to their final show and disappearance. There is a thoroughly enjoyable, sometimes bathos-infused interplay between their ‘real’ selves and their arch Victorian counterparts, and the sharp transitions between the two keep the show moving along swiftly.

This also allows for an ongoing commentary about the nature and importance of these sorts of magic shows in Victorian society, as well as a celebration of the fine art of the long con. The joke, of course, is that we are just as thrilled and taken in by the trickery and misdirection as our presumably less skeptical (and less sophisticated?) predecessors – something that the entire World Buskers Festival rests upon. A few of the feats of magic are explained and many are left for us to work out, and the revelation of the secret behind the Alexanders’ final trick provides a satisfying ending.

The late Victorian costuming and set pieces – a writing desk, a travel case, and a gorgeous, enormous stuffed peacock – give a sumptuous sense of place and time. Lighting and sound contribute to the quick switches between then and now, and Tollemache and Ladderman are particularly gracious towards the show’s technical staff.

Mrs and Mrs Alexander is a charming postmodern sideshow, and the regular reminders that it’s all a big hoax doesn’t stop it from being a pretty good one.


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