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REVIEW: History of Mystery in Newcastle


The Magical Mystery Tour


A History of Mystery in Newcastle

Tyne Idols Bus Tour with Chris Cross
Thursday 24th August 2017

Chris Cross
Photo: Carliol Photography

Local magician Chris Cross conducts a tour looking at the history of magic in Newcastle. With a little help from his friends, the tour leads to private after-hours tours of landmarks such as the Castle Keep and the Tyne Theatre. Add a number of magic tricks over the 3.5 hour trip and you have ‘A History of Mystery in Newcastle.’


We boarded the double decker bus on Bewick Street and each group had been allocated seats. This stopped a mad scramble to get on board. The bus itself, painted in the old yellow livery of Newcastle Busways, had an interior covered in Tyneside film and music memorabilia. We had enjoyed an evening with Simon Donald (Him Off the Viz) at the back of the bus, this time we were near the front. We’re happy to report that the sound system is the same at both ends of the bus - loud enough.


Chris Cross has just published his book the “Geordie Book of Magic” and he was keen to show a trick from his book as the bus pulled away. It was the first of many.


In the prison of the Castle Keep
Photo: Carliol Photography

Our first stop was the Newcastle Keep which had been especially opened for the tour. This was a rare chance to visit the historic location at dusk. We entered the jail cell that was originally used to hold the witches in the 1640s before they were hung on the town moor. One of the castle’s enthusiastic and knowledgeable guides told us tales of witchfinders and mass hangings. This was the subject of the play Wytch was performed in this very castle.


The tour headed up to the chapel and we were to find out about the necromancer ‘Black Jack Johnson’ who used ‘black magic’ to do fortune telling and claiming to talk to the dead. These tales were put into the context of development of the city as a whole.


Chris Cross
Photo: Carliol Photography

A climb to the Great Hall was a chance for Chris to retell the story about the visit of Erik Weisz, aka the infamous Harry Houdini, to Newcastle. This was the dawn of the era of PR and publicity stunts. This was a chance for Chris to escape from a straight jacket in a record time with the assistance of some members of the tour. Each trick Chris performs is with good humour and professionalism.


Chris Cross
Photo: Carliol Photography

Finally we had a chance to go on the roof and see the fabulous view of Newcastle. This was a great photo opportunity and many selfies were taken. Quite a few people said they had never visited the Keep and it is one venue which is worth another visit.


After a brief use of the facilities at The Bridge Hotel we headed to the Town Moor. Historically this was not just the sight of the mass hangings but it was also the place showmen would set up in later years. Indeed the Chinese State Circus were on the site as we arrived.


Iain J. Maindwraith
Photo: Carliol Photography

Another of Chris’ guests took over as Iain J. Mindwraith described the role of the Snake Oil Sellers and the performers who would encourage people to enter the tents of the various side shows that would accompany the circus or the travelling fairs. He performed a trick with 2 lethal looking animal traps. I was asked to help out - the last time that had happened I had to do a card trick on stage with Paul Daniels. Just like with Paul, even though I was very close to the action I have no idea how Iain didn’t injure himself.


Rosy Bloomers
Photo: Carliol Photography

The bus then headed off to the Tyne Theatre & Opera House which is celebrating its 150thanniversary - Chris is going to be using the venue for his variety show The Greatest Show On The Tyne on the 6thOctober. Two of the theatre guides took us on a tour of the venue. Established by the industrialist Joseph Cowan, the theatre was built to entertain working people. Its original bills were full of variety acts and magicians.


We headed under the stage of the grade-1 listed theatre. By a quirk of fate the theatre was converted into a cinema in 1919 but this meant the original wooden machinery was left in place rather than being modernised. Indeed it is all still there and in working order. Adding to the atmosphere was the fact the rehearsals for West Side Story were taking place above us and we could hear the feet of the dancers landing on the stage in unison on a regular basis.


Rosy Bloomers
Photo: Carliol Photography

The rehearsal finished and so we went on stage to stand in the wings and get a performers view of Rosy Bloomers doing her act with her hoops. For many on the trip this would be the first time on stage under the lights. As Chris says: you don’t get much of a view of the audience when the auditorium lights are dropped and the spotlight is on you. Rosy was fabulous with her routine.


The bus then headed down to the Quayside for a few final card tricks and photos before returning to the starting point. Chris also played an interview with Paul Daniels on his opinions about magic tricks in the modern era.


Chris Cross
Photo: Carliol Photography

The trip was 3.5 hours long and we had a chance to witness a number of performers doing their routines and visit 2 historic locations. This was great value for the £10 asking price. With a double decker bus and 2 listed building tours, there are a lot of steps involved but regular pauses on each tour made it easy work if you’re reasonably fit.


Chris is a personable professional entertainer who is clearly passionate about variety shows. His show at the Tyne Theatre will be worth checking out. The Tyne Idols team are very friendly and helpful and look after the passengers very well. This was a very pleasant night out.


Review by Stephen Oliver.


Forthcoming Events:

Chris Cross

Live at the Tyne & Chris Cross present: “The Greatest Show on the Tyne

Fri 6th Oct 2017 at the Tyne Theatre - Details:

Tyne Idols Bus Tours

NewcastleGateshead Tour with Ray Laidlaw - Wednesday, September 27, 2017

'Gob on the Tyne' Punk Tour with Keith Newman - Friday, September 29, 2017

Coastal Heroes Tour with Ray Laidlaw - Wednesday, October 4, 2017 and Sunday, November 12, 2017


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