The Magicians 29th January

Well the last show in the series…

On the one hand it is such a shame that we’re not going to have prime-time magic on the TV. Despite my recent moans and gripes about the shows format, it has at least created some debate and moments of magical talk amongst the general public and anything that raises the profile of magic has to be good news for all of us.

Looking back at my own commentary on the series I do recognise that I’ve been reviewing the shows with the ‘eyes of a magician’ and as such have been forced to comment upon the format, delivery and ‘frame’ within the magic has been offered.

Take tonights show as an example…

Potentially stong, emotional and dynamic magic. Putting aside the continued ‘lame’ involvement and comments from the celebrities, some of the magic was very very effective from the point of view of the public.

For me, however, some of the effects were clouded by the desire to want to make them more ‘appealing’.

Take the “Water Torture” effect. What value or mystery was added by linking it to a card trick?

To drama of the ‘escape’ was really lost by the need for the “Ta-daaa” ending of finding a previously signed card.

Cluttering a major effect with other ‘little effects diminishes both. This is not my thinking but me simply restating what the masters have always taught – Dai Vernon, Pat Page, Eugene Burger, Max Maven, Michael Ammar to name a few have all written about the need to make the magical climax as clear and uncluttered as possible.

The “Water Torture Cell” is about the ‘impossibility’ or ‘difficulty’ of the ‘escape’. It is dramatic, tense and attention grabbing in and of itself. When Penn and Teller ‘played’ with the water torture their solution was to ‘forgo’ the escape and make the discovery of the card the focus. The image of Tellers ‘lifeless’ body floating in the tank with the spectator signed card in his goggles was beautifully macabre BUT maintained the focus of one clear climax.

For me the real issue with this show has to be the ‘training of the celebrities’ to do apparently do what it takes magicians years to learn.

Take the ‘escape’ from the ‘table of death’ performed by celebrity Graham Lamb.

The audience know there must be a trick to it, even when it is performed by a ‘trained magician’ BUT by promoting the fact that it is a trick through the use of a celebrity who has had a few hours training simpy reinforces how ‘simple’ it must be. Do we, as magicians, really want our art ‘sold’ as something that can be ‘mastered’ so quickly.

The whole thing is made worse when the shows host introduces a ‘classic of magic’ as being…..

“The legendary levitation TRICK!!!”

Do we really want to remind the audience that what they are seeing is a puzzle to be solved?

As for the other effects…

Nice to see some neat slieght of hand from Chris Korn in the Street Magic section. The folks in the Bingo parlour seemed impressed… AND the ‘head dropper’ performed by Lois de Matos in Covent Garden looked great!
Barry and Stuarts comic take on the Spirit Cabinet was OK, I liked the build up, but in all honesty the real drama of that routine comes from playing it fairly straight. The humour comes from the situation and maybe not from comic lines. The Falkenstien and Willard presentation of this effect ticks all of the ‘light entertainment’ boxes for this potentially dark routine.

Ah well – Saturday night magic, I will miss it.


The Medium, The Mentalist, The Question

So in a few hours time the “curtain will rise” on what is to all intents and purposes a preview of this new show.

On paper the format seems to pan out….

A working Medium talks about his work view for a couple of minutes. Your blogger here talks about my work for a few minutes.

The audience ate then led through an, hopefully, entertaining evening starting with some “mentalism” and “psychological illusion” and ending with a session by the spiritual medium.

The question ?

Well hopefully the fact that one set of claims is based upon nothing more or less than psychology and a smattering of trickery, i.e. of an earthly-mind-games origin, and the other is of a claimed otherworld intervention there should be some interesting food for thought.

I think my motivation for this show is to engage the audience in asking their own questions about claims, belief in and evidence of the paranormal. I want to to be entertaining, fun, and a tad provocative.

So a few minutes before I head off my concern?

Well I guess it will be the first airing of sone new routines that I’ve been working on and as any performer will recognise breaking new material in is always ……. Fun!

The Magicians BBC TV 22nd Jan

Magicians – 22nd January

First of all I must say that it is easy to criticise and find fault in almost anything if you are the kind of person who does not like to see others excel. Indeed critical comments can often be considered as jealous jibes or envious epithets. So I am hoping that these, frequently critical comments about the BBC series The Magicians are seen in the light they are intended.

I love magic and I admire all kinds of wonder workers.

I would love to see a prime time magic show on UK television as a regular feature. A show, perhaps similar to the more recent Penn and Teller ‘Fool ”Em” show where, for the most part the magicians were allowed to perform quality routines without the need for celebrity intereference.

The Magicians features magic which is, I feel, secondary to the format of the show. This weeks gaggle of elebrities featuring the ‘too cool to be really impreseed so we’ll try to be the cool we real are N Dubz’ was in many ways a hindrance to the performance of artful denception.

I mean Rolf Harris, a hero of popular TV and one of the true entertainers, seemed a little out if step with his partner Chris Korn.

Even Barry and Stuart seemed a little off their game tonight – and I love their work.

It was pleasing to see the first pieces of magic that I feel really could have been performed under normal street conditions, but even one of them seemed to rely on some time misdirection made possible by the filming process.

The blindfold Segway drive and the 30 CD players was certainly not, in my opinion street magic.

The illusions were so so this evening, lacking dramatic drive and pace. How ‘the impaler’ could be turned into such a under-played piece of magic is beyond me (sorry Barry and Stuart). Funny how I was extolling the virtues of that particular illusion to Alex of Matricks today. Alex’s Illusion act is superb and as a working pro act he brings dynamism, theatricality and entertsinment to an illusion show that works, in the real world. After seeing that particular illusion on the show tonight my excitement about it’s theatrical potential my well be seen as being misguided by Alex.

Now whilst I may not agree with Lenny Henrys rhetoric about the magicians on the show being ‘the best in the world’, I am very sure that if left to their own devices Lois, Chris and Barry & Stuart are worthy of much praise and audience accolades. Again we are back to the limitations of the shows format. The need to elicit celebrity comments about the ‘mystery of magic’ and audience votes on the ‘best magic’ can, I feel de-value the art.

Tonights show ended with Chris Korn and Rolf Harris turning down their forfeit.

The reasons given may be genuine or not, but at least this ‘moment’ in the show created genuine tension. In a way it doesn’t matter whether Lenny’s saving the day was as spontaneous as it was made out to be, this moment of drama was very very strong. If it hadn’t been rehearsed then Lenny gets my utmost praise for playing this the way he did. If it was rehearsed then the shows directors get my praise for daring to bring a moment of real uncertainty into the set piece. It will be one of those ‘water cooler’ moments – one which will prompt comment and question around the water coolers, coffee breaks and informal conversations in the work place. Which is what magic should be doing all of the time!

As I watched tonights show and the odd collection of magical
performances it reminded me just how brilliant Paul Daniels was during his long running weekly television series. The pressure of creating week in and week out magical routines that were topical, engaging, artful and mysterious must be incredible. The fact that Daniels and his team were able to do this in an apparently effortless way was, perhaps, the greatest illusion of all.

Watching tonights Magicians show I can’t help but wonder if the strain is starting to show.

The Magicians – Again!

Here’s an interesting piece from The Guardian

Entitled Disillusioned with The Magicians it begins…

BBC1 and ITV have both recently aired magic shows with The Magicians and Penn And Teller: Fool Us. So have either of them held you spellbound?

There is then the by-line..

THE MAGICIANS The Magicians … it’s a kind of tragic.

The article is well worth a read and its author doe a fair bit of  “Lenny Bashing” …

Part of the problem with the show is presenter Lenny Henry. Magic, particularly magic on TV, requires a fair amount of mystique and Lenny, bless his big, Brummie heart is about as inscrutable as a tin of Happy Shopper beans. Here for instance is Lenny introducing a trick that involved making comedian Stephen K Amos invisible: “Who here hasn’t wanted to be invisible? Which is what I said to the security guard when he found me hiding in Samantha Womack’s wardrobe.” Boom! Boom!”

This utter lack of mystery is further compounded by the guests (last Saturday featured Amos and Henry’s old Tiswas mate, the relentlessly jolly Chris Tarrant) and a format that harkens back to the days of Paul Daniels, Pontin’s and scruffy old hacks in top hats doing the Royal Variety Show.

It’s all so cheesily and insufferably 1970s – although we can probably blame this on its early evening schedule and the odd but dearly held assumption that magic shows are for the very young and very old. And this in the age of David Blaine, Jerry Sadowitz, Dynamo, Derren Brown and Penn & Teller.

But at least the articles author is more positive about the Penn and Teller Show, which I have already said was in my mind far superior – despite Jonathan Ross.

The Guardian article closes with an interesting set of observations..

“Harry Houdini, the arch sceptic and magician’s magician, often complained that what seemed wonderful to most people was every day and commonplace to him, describing his professional life as a “constant record of disillusion”. Almost a century after Houdini’s death you’d expect professional magicians to be even more inured to the charm of their trade’s trickery. So there was something strangely uplifting about Penn & Teller’s obvious delight and bafflement.

That said in the age of CGI and increased cynicism and with Paul Daniels auctioning off his props and tricks on eBay (the Magic Circle must be livid) one wonders whether magic really has any place on TV at all. And if so what format should it take?”

Valid points indeed and worthy of consideration.

As a professional magician part of my  stock in trade is to be sensitive to the likes, dislikes and interests of the audience – and audiences are changing. It’s not that they are any smarter, or any more sophisticated in some respects, it is that they have different expectations of the entertainers they allow into their space. The culture of instant gratification coupled with the ‘audience power’, as celebrated in all those ‘audience decides’ shows, means that they are more likely to vote with their feet or their disinterest unless you are able to capture (or pander) to their immediate emotions.

Television Magic does not have the immediacy and intimacy of the live performance, whether that’s stage or close-up. There is something in the roar of the crowd and the smell of the greasepaint (to coin an old theatre phrase) and the idea that at any minute the crowd en masse could reject your magical overtures is a real adrenalin rush.

When we think of the ‘masters’ of magic and, mentalism, they all have two things in common…

They connect with their audiences – Paul Daniels, Penn and Teller, Jeff McBride, Eugene Burger, Derren Brown – all experts in audience management.

Secondly they all have a persona, not necessarily an artificial stage character, but a charisma, a vibe that draws you to them. This ‘vibe’ is part of what they project, the secrets and insights they allude to have and the way in which they create value and meaning in what they do.

In terms of  work-a-day professional magic I like to believe there are really three arenas where magic will excel and continue to thrive.

Childrens Magic – this highly skilled area of performance, often attempted by the under-prepared who later regret thinking that this branch of the craft was ‘easy’.

Childrens Magicians can enrich the childhood experience with stories of wonder, laughter and real emotional engagement. My friend and colleague Professor Tickles is an example of such a performer. A master at engaging young audiences by keeping a childlike playfulness alive within himself.

Close-Up Magic – in whatever genre has the power to engage people and allow them to enjoy being fooled, baffled and amazed.

There will always be an interest in the roving table magician at functions, but this format could become very stale very quick.  Far too many close-up performers are interested in their own skill, their own ability to ‘knock an audience’ dead. The real secret of close-up magic is in the ability to gain rapport with the people whose space you are invading. More importantly perhaps the future of close-up lies not in the roving trickster, but in a return to the intimate ‘parlour style’ entertainments where guests joined the performer in their space. This is indeed the format I try to work in my close-up mentalism sessions.

Special Themed Theatre Shows – at the moment in the UK Paul Daniels can still pull a theatre crowd and of course Derren Brown has taken the stage performance of magic to a whole new level. There are few who can compete with him. It’s a shame that some of the acts magicians get to see at Magic Convention Gala Shows do not seem to be able to make the step up into large scale national theatre tours. Perhaps there are two reasons for this…

a) They may not have the material, the authority (in terms of presence) or the creativity to produce a two hour show


b) The audiences need to be re-educated about the real entertainment value of a full scale evening of magic.

I think there is the magical talent ‘out there’ and magicians could do more to bring the art back. Perhaps we need to be subversive and do what comedians did… remember…

Comedy and Comedians went through a period of boring repetition. The old mother-in-law jokes, sexist and racist material which lacked any real relevance to the changing demographic of the audience. Alternative Comedy was born from the frustrations of the ‘new talent’ who had something to say,  something to contribute. It went underground and a network of Comedy Clubs was born. They became the creative hotbed the ‘new comedy’ required.

The Comedy Club circuit is not unknown to magicians but not all magicians are comedic!

So I’m proposing here and now linking up with Professional Magicians in the UK who may already be working on this kind of thing, to create a network of regular magic nights in back rooms of pubs, clubs and institutions.

Let’s get together and publish where what and when – cross promotion guys and gals.

This is not about magic club nights for magicians but for promoting magic nights to the ‘muggles’ and generating an audience for good quality, artistic and meaningful magic.

I almost started to rant there!


The Magicians – Show 3

Well I think this has been the best show so far.

The magic was good, not too overshadowed by the celebrities (although it seemed that the comedian wad trying to out-comic and even upstage Barryband Stuart a little. On reflection this simply maybe because he is a bigger character – and someone I like – and Barry and Stuart skilfully under play their comedy).

Loved everything Barry and Stuart did – the camel, the superb ‘box’ tricks with the invisibility theme and the 1,000 deck of cards ( actually got me thinking that one !!!! )

Thought the presentation of ‘spike’ was dramatic if a bit overly long – need to look at it again to see if the repetitions of the effect heightened tension or turned it into a ‘so what’ kind of climax,

Still personally having the dilemma about the notion of Street Magic and what is presented on TV as street magic. I mean the glass penetration and even the 1,000 decks of cards, as good as they are as effects, ‘street magic?’. Wondervwhat Gazzo and othrrsvof his ilk would say?

The ‘forfeit’ – well come on guys, this is a feature not a forfeit!

Kudos to Chris Tarrant – no matter how much ‘coaching’ you get – undertaking such a nerve-tingling stunt gets all those unconscious fears rising to the surface.

I guess my lingering problem with this show, apart from the general dumbing down of the magic, is the embedded implication that the magicians art can be ‘taught’ in a week…

On the one hand, I guess, it can be seen in the same light as Strictly Come Dancing or Dancing on Ice – the ‘experts’ couch the ‘celebrities’ but you can always spot the professional from the amateur.

On the other there is the lingering traditionalist in me that likes the notion of the ‘code of secrecy’, something the Internet is doing it’s best to destroy, and something this show seems flaunt.

Broken Wand – Terry Seabrooke

Terry Seabrooke, the popular entertainer and magician who delighted audiences around the world, has died.

Mr Seabrooke, 78, of Beechcroft Road, Bushey, passed away this morning with his family at his side.

The veteran entertainer, a multi-award-winning member of the Inner Magic Circle, began performing when he was still at school, wowing audiences with his unique brand of comedy magic.

He enjoyed nearly half a century in the professional limelight, performing twice at The London Palladium, three times for The Queen at Buckingham Palace, and even to troops in the Falklands Islands after the 1982 war.

He appeared on numerous television shows during the 1970s and 80s, counted some of the biggest names in show business as personal friends and also authored two hugely popular magic books: Seabrooke’s Book: Around the World with a Baking Tin and Beyond Compere.

He continued performing until the final year of his life and was awarded one of the Magic Circle’s highest accolades in November 2009 for his services to British magic.

In receiving the highly coveted Maskelyne Award, named after renowned 19th Century magician and inventor John Nevil Maskelyne, he will forever be remembered alongside household names such as Paul Daniels, David Nixon and Ali Bongo.

Speaking to the Watford Observer in his final interview just days after receiving the award, Mr Seabrooke, who was also president of the Watford Association of Magicians, reflected on his life on stage.

He said: “Magic has been very kind to me and has given me a great life. I have travelled the world and met some wonderful people along the way.

“When I started all those years ago I never thought I would go this far. It was really just a hobby that took off.

“I realised I was quite good at what I was doing and had the ability to make people laugh. Then all of a sudden people started throwing money at me to perform.

“I was working full-time in insurance sales but soon found I was earning more from the magic and decided to go full-time.

“It’s the best decision I’ve ever made.”

From Watford Observer Tuesday 11th Jam

The Magicians – Show 2

So after something approaching a REAL magic show, ie Penn and Teller, Michael Vincent, John Archer, Benjamin Earl, James Moore and Richard Bellars, we’re back the the BBC’s new show The Magicians.

This week – well I think slightly better than lasts with Lenny Henry less exhuberant and giving more space for the magic. However there was still a lot of dumbing down in terms of explainin what was going do happen in the effects, doing the magic and then explaining what the audience witnessed.

Loved Luis de Matos’ opening effect – the car vanish – nicely done if lacking in a little drama as there had to be the innane dialogue between the magician and the celebrity (actuall a guy I admire by the way). BUt why oh why did Chris Korn choose to do the ‘cod’ car appearance with the ‘balloon car’ in the same show????

Of course the one trick has little or nothing to do with the other in terms of ‘real method’ BUT in the minds of the spectator …. ????????

Barry and Stuart with Ade Edmundson (now that’s an interesting Trio!!). Liked the mobile phone bit with the blender and the use of the A-frame. Again the presentation was less punchy than I would have expected from Barry and Stuart and it was a pity that the Penn and Teller show the night before had a phone stunt in it which may lead to some kinds of unfair comparisons.

Luis de Mato’s Card in Orange effect was nice as was Chris Korns billboard card trick. Both of these ‘street magic’ tricks of course required some degree of set-up (especially the bill board) which perhaps goes against the real ethos of ‘street magic’. Barry and Stuarts ‘nail in nose’ was a more honest and “impromptu” performance and so for me meets the street magic criteria.

Liked the ‘dream car’ routine by Barry and Stuart even if the logic of crumpled car to white horse was a bit contrived.

The jumbo stage-version of Dean Dills box (?????) was nice and the appearance of the girl, whilst making no sense in terms of the plot of the trick, was a bit of razzle dazzle.

For me the most bizarre quote of the show was Amanda Bryan who, when trying to convince us of her interest in magic, said that when she was young she was a fan of Houdini and ‘saw all his films’. Really? Not many youngsters would be interested in grainy, jumpy (mostly) silent black and white movies.

The real question for me is that is this show about the ‘celebrities’ or the magic? Surely the professional magicians on the show deserve celebrity status in their own right and do not require the validation from others, from non-related fields of expertise, who profess a school-boy/school-girl interest in magic.

The notion that in a few hours these celebrtities can learn to perform and take an active role in the presentation of a magical mystery or a grand illusion devalues the effort, dedication and professionalism of the magician.

Let’s see MAGIC performed with style and flair.

Let’s see MAGIC that through its internal consitency, frame, plot and narrative has meaning and is awesome.

Penn & Teller – Fool Us

Yippee a UK TV magic show where the magicians were given some scope to do their ‘thing’.

Ok so the format still had that ‘competition’ and ‘vote’ element – BUT – those making the decisions were leaders in their field and the ‘prize’ was something that any professional magician would welcome.

So what of the magic?

When Penn and Teller performed two fun and typically ‘out there’ routines. Borrowed mobile-phone to fish and a bloody buzz saw. Both defying any description that would do justice to the quality of entertainment derived from their performances.

Of the ‘hopefulls’ – well three of the five I have seen before and the other two were new to me.

Ali Cook (he of Monkey Magic).

A nicely choreographed routine presenting for the first time (?) a live version of the trick described as being performed by Dedi in ancient Egypt.

Richard Bellars (of BBC’s Magic Party)

With a fairly nice ‘blank deck’ effect. The Psychological Frame was, I think, a bad move considering the BS – meters of Penn and Teller and I must admit there was a little something ‘lacking’ in the performance for me.

Michael Vincent

Now this guy is so smooth in terms of the way he performs ‘classical magic’ always a joy to watch. I loved his routine and appreciate, as did Penn and Teller, the years of hard work that went into that four minute routine.

(no YouTube Video at the moment)

John Archer

I love this guy and his approach. He calls himself a comedy magician, but with him the MAGIC is not overshadowed by the comedy as is the case with some who claim this title.

He presented a Bank Night-Just Chance routine of his owb devising with a method, well that fooled me and Penn and Teller (so I don’t feel too bad). A really worthy invitee to Las Vegas.

(no YouTube Video at the moment)

James Moore

A nice ‘box’ illusion, surely not intended to ‘fool’ any professional magician, but with a very nice presentation.

Benjamin Earl

So there’s a duel between magicians and gamblers over which of their techniques have the strongest ‘kung fu’…. well if Benjamin is to be believed that is the case.

His routine was superb. The fact that he borrowed a deck brought in by Penn and Teller (so oviosuly had not ‘worked’ the deck in ????) then commenced to present a four Ace location routine. I guess to call it that really does not give credit to the strength, quality and technicality of the routine.

He claimed no ‘false shuffles’, but of course there were ‘location’ shuffles and cuts but nevertheless the full mechanics of the effect were not spotted by Penn and Teller (nor by me).

So John Archer and Benjamin Earl get the Las Vegas invites…

And here for me is the dilemma…

If we are talking about skill, in terms of dexterity, years of practice and dedication then, for me Michael Vincent is the star, followed by Benjamin Earl.

In terms of charm and audience engagement Ali Cook, John Archer and Michael Vincent win hands down – for different reasons.

And I guess now we’re having to consider the nature of ‘awe’ and ‘wonder’ and ‘magic’ when it comes to magicians and their performances…. but that’s for another blog.

Let’s see more magic on TV – let’s celebrate the diversity of magical performances…


Magic is dead ?

Magicians seek to reinvent an old art for the Internet age

In the days of the Internet, magic is losing its mystery, and some magicians are running out of rabbits to pull out of a hat.

“Magic is definitely in decline,” says Toronto comedian/performer Jay Sankey, who creates magic and consults with the best magicians in the world, including David Copperfield. “It’s shrinking.”

Sankey and others lay some of the blame on a saturated market brought on by hundreds of cable television channels and the Internet, where people expose tricks to the world and sometimes claim them as their own.

One magician, Toronto’s Dan Trommater, has had enough and is moving away from parlour tricks. Called the “thinking man’s magician,” he is building a new client base in the corporate world, where he uses magic as a tool in leadership workshops that deal with wrong assumptions and embracing new possibilities.

But Sankey believes magicians themselves are to blame for not moving quickly enough beyond the clichés of card tricks and tuxedos.

Magicians rank only above mimes in the amount of disrespect they get, but magicians have been arrogant and out of touch for too long, he says.

And they have a hard act in Toronto, which has no permanent home for magic. In North America, there are probably fewer than 10 venues dedicated to the art. Compare that with comedy; in Toronto and elsewhere, comedians have a variety of local venues where they can perform.

Yet, watching a magician send ripples of delight and wonder through a crowd, one might wonder why magic hasn’t taken off in this city.

In early December at the Ryerson Theatre, for example, a group of world-class magicians performed Magic N Miracles, sponsored by the Toronto Firefighters Association to benefit local causes. A near-capacity crowd of about 1,000 could barely control their gasps through the 90-minute show.

Yet North American audiences seem to be pulling a disappearing act.

“Magic has to reinvent itself,” Sankey asserts. “Magic is irrelevant and has been irrelevant for a long time, and I think it’s caught up with us.”

The most popular acts — Copperfield, Penn and Teller, David Blaine and Criss Angel — are still commanding presences. But few make a full-time living at in Canada. Sankey believes the profession is limited to dozens, “but not hundreds.”

“Magic is a hard way to make a living,” he adds.

The art is in such a freefall that perhaps Canada’s most decorated magician says he can’t get an act booked in Canada.

Shawn Farquhar of Coquitlam, B.C., declared the world champion of magic in 2009 at the “Olympics of Magic” in Beijing, says he is more demand abroad than in his own country.

“I do almost all my work in Europe and Asia now,” Farquhar says.

His YouTube video Shape of My Heart has been viewed more than a million times, and an audience of 3,000 in Korea immediately recognized the music from the video when Farquhar introduced himself.

“The crowd went insane,” Farquhar said. “And I said, ‘You know this?’ I have a fan base that I didn’t know existed.”

Comedian/magician David Acer of Montreal agrees that technology has changed things. “What’s changed is the ability of magicians to ply their trade based on secrets alone,” he says. “It turns out they now have to get better at other things, like being entertaining and real relevant.”

Yet the Internet hasn’t been all bad for magicians. Although YouTube has created a subculture of magicians who don’t perform before live audiences, they use the video-sharing site as a springboard to success. One turned his YouTube act into a hit on America’s Got Talent.

The information age has also sped up learning the craft.

“When we were young, the magic trade journals would have maybe 10 new tricks a year,” said Farquhar, 48. “Everyone would devour them. Now there are 50 new tricks a day through the Internet. Once somebody sees an idea, it sparks a new idea. The Internet is helping us develop our magic.”

Farquhar said the recession that hit Las Vegas also hit magic. But he reasons that the best magicians were born in bad times, when people needed an escape.

Murray Hatfield, who hails from Victoria, B.C., produces and directs the Magic N Miracles benefit tour. He and wife Teresa have turned the act into a full theatrical production, including video projections of close-up tricks, plus contemporary music, dance and costuming.

“My goal is to show audiences that magic is more than just birthday party magic,” Hatfield says.

Sankey doesn’t share that excitement, and goes so far as to say that magic as we’ve known it is doomed.

“That’s what I think and that’s what I hope,” he says starkly. “I think it’s time. What’s next for magic is a really big question and lots of people are wondering about it. I think the days when we try to make magic entertaining just because we know the secret and the audience doesn’t, I think those days are over.”

He’s plotting a reinvention of magic.

“This coming spring, I plan to release something in the magic community which I’m hoping will be the beginning of the change. I think it could be an exciting time.”

But true to his profession, he is mysterious about it all, other than to say that “magic” as a label will be gone. The word is “so laden with so many problems, marketing-wise, and clichés, and I think we need to take a break from it.”

What’s the word?

“I can’t tell you.”

He’s looking at unveiling the mystery on (what else?) April Fool’s Day.

News: 4th Jan 2011


The Magicians – Prime Time Magic

So the announced BBC Prime Time Magic show “The Magicians” aired last night.


On the plus side it was great to see some magic back on the TV but why oh why does the format have to feature celebrities doing getting involved (and for the most part completely over-hamming their performace) and audience ‘voting’ for the best performance.

I would have prefered to see a show with the magicians having the freedom to ‘do their stuff’ without this nonsense of ‘challenge’, ‘celebrity’, ‘audience votes’ and ‘forfiets’,

I found myself becoming annoyed by Lenny Henry’s over exaggerated exclamations of ‘wonder’ and ‘befuddlement’ – wasn’t he at the rehearsals?

One of the facets of a magical performance is ‘suspense’ so the need to tell the audience ‘what is going to happen’ and the constant referal to the ‘trick’ stole away the artistry that the professional magicians on the show could have brought to their performances.

Has audience intellect fallen so low that they have to be alerted to what will happen, be shown what happens and then being told what they saw?

Barry and Stuart, two of the UK’s most original and off-beat performers, presented some of the most original magic on this particular show to my mind. Yet their humour and sense of parody which plays brilliantly when they do their bit, was lost on an audience who were not given the opportunity to make their own minds up about the ironies within their performance. The humour that underpins the magic of these great guys simply could not flourish within the straigh-jacket of the lame hosting (sorry Lenny, I do generally admire your work), show format and lowest common denomintor audience pandering.

Show high spots for me…

The ‘box production’ routine with the dance group Diversity – a great show opener…

Barry and Staurts crossbows, javelins and card board box sequence – what a great take on the sword box and if placed within the context of their own pacing would be so much stronger…

Show low spots…

The Street Magic section which included an effect that could not be performed under genuine street conditions (the park bench production)…

The version of the ‘Pegasus Page’ which was totally undermined by the overly eager celebrity (hack) performance.

I must admit that I was quite bored by the overall pedestrian nature of the hour long show…. not the fault of the magicians or the magic for the most part, but because of the clumsy format of the show.

I will, of course, watch with interest next weeks show.