maltings meets: Rhys Morgan of Morgan & Westnews
You have been working together for over a decade, how exactly did you first meet?
We were both studying for science degrees at Oxford University, I for a physics degree and Rob (Mr. West) was reading chemistry. I say studying for degrees, what we were actually doing was using our degrees as a rather paper-thin cover story to be involved with as much theatre as we could. We first met in a production of Terry Pratchett’s Wyrd Sisters and bonded over a love of Eddie Izzard and Look Around You (a cult tv show which parodied the old Open University videos we’d all watch in science lessons in school). It wasn’t long before we were writing musicals and other shows together and eventually, we decided to form a double act. We both had a passing interest in magic and so made that our focus. The rest, as they say, is history…
And you were also teachers, at the same school no less?
Indeed, after our degrees we trained as secondary school teachers of science and mathematics and taught side by side (not literally of course, team teaching is brilliant but there’s only so much double act work that you can do in one day…) at King Alfred’s in Wantage.
How scary was it to leave teaching in order to become the duo Morgan & West?
Enormously terrifying. At the time, we had done two runs of magic shows at the Edinburgh Fringe and were also doing small shows in village halls the length and breadth of the UK. We would go into school on a Monday completely exhausted having been performing in Cumbria the night before. Things took a big leap forward for us in the summer of 2011 when we appeared on Penn and Teller: Fool Us (ITV) where we fooled the eponymous Las Vegas magic duo. We took this (and the bags under our eyes) as a sign that we had to make a choice between teaching (which we loved) and performing (which we loved). We chose performing and spent the next eight years touring the country and indeed the world with our magic shows.
Morgan & West appear to be Victorian gentlemen, where did the idea for the characters come from?
We love dressing up and what better excuse to wear frock coats, double breasted waistcoats, and brightly patterned cravats than Victorian fashion? The facial hair it affords you is pretty fun too. We were also very much influenced at the time by the golden era of magic, when the line between conjuring and reality was blurred – much like the line between mind reading and reality is these days. All in all, it’s excellent fun to play characters on stage who are a little larger than life.
You’ve appeared on Penn & Teller: Fool Us and managed to fool the Vegas duo. What was that like?
It was an incredible feeling. We really expected them to see right through us (one magic double act to another) but they didn’t. We fooled them and were whisked off to Vegas to close their stage show as part of the prize. An amazing experience and one that we’ll never forget. We told them how it was done afterwards, of course…
What can we expect from Morgan & West's Great Big Christmas Magic Show?
It’s all our very best tricks brought together in one place. Lots of laughs, mountains of mystery, and ample amounts of alliteration. It’s all very silly and sure to bamboozle kids and grown-ups alike.
So, has anything ever gone wrong on stage?
Apart from the usual missed lines and theatrical mess-ups you mean? Actually yes, yes it has. We have been known to saw me in half. And we have been known to get that wrong. Painfully wrong. Thankfully everyone saw the funny side of it, even me after I recovered.
Finally, what’s your favourite part of the show?
There’s nothing quite like a Christmas Magic show, and in particular there’s something really wonderful about making snow appear on stage. I can’t say any more than that of course, it would spoil the magic!
Morgan & West's Great Big Christmas Magic Show is on from Sun 19 December to Fri 24 December 2021. Festive offer - four tickets for £40! Book your tickets here.