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Prepare yourself for an evening of sleights, misdirection & Steam-Punk Science in the eccentric, enigmatic company of Leopold Thorn: Illusionist (professionally), Murderer (reputedly), Visionary Genius (quite possibly) and Strutting Dandy (unquestionably), as writer/performer Darren Gooding attempts to answer the question of how a man who invented the greatest illusion ever known was so comprehensively erased from the history of stage magic…


“The Cabinet of Leopold Thorn” will again be available for booking for small / medium scale venues from Spring 2022.

Audio and Video clips from previous performances along with some in-depth information about Darren’s research of stage magic can be found below, plus DVD recordings of the Premiere Performance of “Leopold Thorn” are available for Venue Managers and others with a professional interest in the show.

Please email us to obtain a copy.

You can also see an array of clips on our YouTube Channel

Truelove Tours beguiling one man play received its World Premiere at Colchester Arts Centre in 2011.

   The Company’s founder Darren Gooding, turned literary detective to unveil “The Cabinet of Leopold Thorn”  - an extraordinary true story of ambition, loss, scandal and deception set within the obsessive, clandestine and occasionally downright ridiculous world of Victorian Stage Illusion.

   The drama played to near full houses and engendered an overwhelming quantity of positive, enthusiastic feedback from the broad cross-section of  people who attended the opening performances. The show attracted an age range from students to OAPs and entertained devotees of both ‘straight’ theatre and comedy alike; along with many from more niche groups; including those with interests in Stage Illusion,Victoriana and Steampunk.

Darren comments:

 “I would like to say an enormous ‘thank you’ to the diverse individuals who took time out of their busy lives to watch these preview performances. When one embarks upon an entirely new artistic venture it is impossible to truly know if it will succeed until it is put before an audience, but the phenomenal response I have received from  those who attended the initial performances at Colchester Arts Centre has reinvigorated my love of live theatre and confirmed my belief that the story of  Leopold Thorn is one which absolutely deserves to be told...”

“I have always possessed a fascination for stage magic; the beautiful delicacy of the manipulation, the technical intricacy of the props, and the cunning subtlety of the misdirection has always appealed to me and so the notion of developing a play about magic, which utilizes illusion as part of its narrative and presentation, has been with me for almost two decades now, and so I finally decided to it was time to summon up the courage to begin...

        “Magic is naturally a compelling and frankly addictive topic; the more research I have undertaken, the more beguiled I have become by the whole subject. Perhaps inevitably I found myself drawn to tales of conjurors from the late Victorian / early Edwardian era; an epoch regarded by many as the Golden Age of stage illusion. Beginning with recent books on the subject I soon began delving into their bibliographies to seek out older, out of print texts. To be honest I love the excuse to read around a subject; to look at the same events from a variety of different perspectives; it appeals to the frustrated academic in me! At first I encountered only the famous names; the likes of David Devant, Howard Thurston, Robert-Houdin and John Nevil Maskelyne all loom large. Their friendships, rivalries and deceptions are in themselves the stuff of melodrama, and for a time I considered simply writing a stage biography of one of the greats of Edwardian stage Illusion. That was until I happened upon a passing reference to Leopold Thorn.

        “Initially, the name alone attracted me: I have a passion for quirky, unusual names and Leopold Thorn possessed a moniker quirkier than most, but what really cemented my interest in Thorn was the surprising lack of any tangible information about him: try Googling him you’ll come up with next to nothing - trust me, I’ve tried. However, he is name-checked in a couple of magical volumes from the early 20th Century; most notably there’s a fleeting reference in the 1911 edition of David Devant and Nevil Maskelyne’s “Our Magic” to an apparently revolutionary cabinet illusion presented by ‘that most unfortunate of radicals; L.G. Thorne’ [sic], however, even this reference is omitted in all subsequent editions of the book.

        “Thomas Steinmann’s “The Other Side of the Illusion”, London 1929, makes seven references to Leopold Thorn (all with the no “e” spelling of the sir name, and with only one mention of a middle name, which there is given as ‘Geoffrey’); three references are in relation to an apparently highly popular sketch in the Steinmann magical repertoire, which parodied a spiritualist séance, and was “masterfully performed by Mr L.G. Thorn and Miss F.C. Thackeray”. However, Steinmann’s most intriguing Leopold Thorn reference is to his “most unfathomable cabinet routine... which even my father was at pain to fully and properly elucidate”. Thomas Steinmann’s booklet is essentially a piece of vanity publishing (albeit a quite engagingly written one), chronicling the colourful exploits of his father, Maximillian Steinmann, in the eccentric world of Victorian magical entertainment; from it we know that Steinmann senior employed Thorn from early 1890 to the autumn of 1895, when their professional affairs were terminated by, as his son puts it “...the inevitable consequence of the terrible events which overtook Mister Thorn...”  Annoyingly Thomas Steinmann gives no clue as to what those terrible events might be, which naturally piqued my curiosity even further.

           “However in his bibliography Steinmann does cite the one and only biography of Leopold Thorn; “The Impossible Watchmaker” by P.T. Wilby, Bruges 1919, 366 pages. Out of print, unbelievably obscure, and never officially re-printed, Wilby’s biography of Thorn is recondite even in magical circles. However, through a combination of some luck and a great deal of legwork I eventually managed to track down a facsimile from a specialist antiquarian dealer. From that point on I was in no doubt as to the subject of my new play...

           “Even Wilby’s book, does leave out some vital points concerning the life of Leopold Thorn, but what it does allude to is frankly jaw-dropping. If nothing else it does finally clarify his name - Leopold Guestly Thorn - a name which in my opinion has for far too long been omitted from the history not just of magic but of science...”



“I can honestly say that this is a gripping, intriguing, magical and superbly acted tour-de-force. If I were pitching it to Hollywood I would probably say: ‘It's Sherlock Holmes-meets Dickens-meets Doctor Who!’"

Liz Mullen - Colchester Garrison Radio

“Gooding is a compelling performer, vocally brilliant, swapping gender with ease, and bringing to life an array of characters, each becoming visible before us… one of the best solo performances I have seen in a long time.”

Paul T. Davies - Colchester Gazette 29.05.13      SEE FULL REVIEWS

What the Critics Said...

Banner Photograph Copyright © Steve Harrison. Southgate Photographic Society 2014