Saw the first programme in Ben Earls new TV series, Trick Artist, last night.
It’s going to be interesting to see what the general public think. I was watching it with a ‘muggle’ who, like a majority of TV viewers isn’t easily satisfied with hyperbole and ‘OMG’ reactions of selected members of the TV audience. He, like me, wondered as to the credulity of a spectator who was ‘wowed’ and ‘amazed’ by a paper shredder …. No no the effect using a paper shredder, but by the machine itself.
Audience reaction aside, which seemed a little too contrived, Ben has a great sense of style and flair and I can see him as the guy men would like to be with a little of the panache women will like.
Some nice slight of hand – I loved the cigarette paper to butterfly. The fact that this routine was performed in handcuffs to prisoners gave the whole piece a powerful subtext,
As for the rest, not sure there’d be too many overly excited magicians; a number of fairly standard effects dressed up in a frequently overly laborious set-up. The cards across routine he ended with …. Overly staged or what???
So, for me the high lights were the butterfly effect; the shredded routine (which would have been much stronger without the restoration – but that’s the mentalist in me); the bullet catch (with a far too static catch after a great set-up and no match for the Penn and Teller Magic Bullet and actually lacking the theatricality of Ted’s performances) ….
So be interesting to see where he goes with this.
One BIG plus – it’s great to see a new magic show on TV, with a new face.
Final comment from my muggle friend … “It’s Derren Brown without the psychology or eloquence and he does say he’s doing ‘tricks’ so its all fake’
So it’s Christmas Eve and as is normal at this time to year my mind starts to review the previous year and look forward to the next.
It’s been an interesting year for me; a new show, some great reviews and an opportunity to refocus some of my efforts in completing some of the magic projects I’ve been tinkering with. I’ve been in conversation with a dealer about the ‘exclusive’ digit rights to some of my magic writings and am preparing the hard copy versions for release to interested dealers early in the New Year.
And this brings me to the point of this post…
In the past I have been a member of numerous magic forums but over the years have gotten dismayed by the level of general conversation; some of the obvious back-biting and issues relating to exposure.
Now call me old fashioned but I do think that there is a need for a degree of secrecy when it comes to discussing the methods used to create wonder. In the past I have ‘vented my spleen’ at some of the YouTube hacks who think they can simply take a commercial effect, learn it (in a half-hearted way) and then try to have their ego’s massaged by ‘exposing the real secret’ on shaky videos posted on the net. Often comments left on their video’s which question the right to expose methods they did not create has produced little more than personal attacks and requests to ‘get over myself’.
Many magicians will remember the intense debates around the Masked Magician TV Specials and in many ways it’s funny how most of the general public have forgotten so much about what was and was not exposed on these shows. To be honest, in some cases members of the public who ‘thought they had the secret’ became the easiest to work with.
Whilst I do not condone exposure I think I can live with it a little more than I can with the blatant theft and sharing of commercial works between members of on-line forums.
As as soon to be distributed author within the magic world I decided to take a look around the kinds of spaces where people talk about magic. I was pleased to find several places where discussion of magic seemed to be at the fore, but I also came across sites where the sole purpose was to share files between its members.
One site, Magic Videos for Free, not only had members willing to share gigabytes of material which was available from dealers and working performers, but seemed to have a system whereby books, effects, videos could be ‘requested’ – which as far as I am concerned amounted to a request to steal.
Apparently the law is a bit cloudy on this issue and seems to be playing a game of semantics. The overt sharing and distribution of copyrighted work is not theft but copyright infringement.
In a very real sense sharing of copyright work equates to loss of income to creators/producers/dealers.
Legal semantics aside, these pirates often excuse their behaviour in the following ways:-
a) Well if ’the man’ didn’t charge so much we wouldn’t have to look for free versions
b) Well actually sharing these books increases sales because more people will see the work
c) In the past I’ve spent a lot of money on tricks which were not that good so finding free versions is good
d) Actually sharing the secrets means that people will create better magic (This is what I call the Masked Magician Fallacy since that’s one of the excuses he gave).
Non of these are tenable positions.
If you are a magician, mentalist or mystery performer then your journey is about finding the material, authors and thinkers who inspire your art. True I have purchased magic and been disappointed with the method BUT I remember that I was captivated by the effect… and that’s the point. I many cases such purchases inspired me to find an improved method AND to always remember the effect which intrigued me.
People who are not engaged in the process of creativity often fail to appreciate the work that goes into turning an idea into a practicality and a practicality into a ‘product’. In my experience the best results come from simplicity but to explain that that simplicity comes from hours and hours of thought, experiment and research to many is not easy.
If you are a magician, mentalist or mystery performer with a professional attitude then ONE idea in a book or a video more often than not is worth the cost of the original complete material….and perhaps this is one of the differences between and amateur/hobbyist and a part-time/working professional …. the ability to recognise the real value of an idea.
Without ethics and professionalism the art and craft of magic will die. Creators will cease to share; innovators will refrain from developing and performers will become more guarded – and those seeking to learn from the experience of others will be met with caution and distrust.
It seems to me that the magic community has tolerated these file sharing hacks for far too long and so it was with some interest, and not a little excitement, that I noticed that Magic Videos Free website has been the target of a group of anti-pirates; defenders of magic copyright. Indeed their campaign has resulted in the closure of this particular site.
I’ve been following the progress of this group (whoever they are) via a new Facebook Group :
Not surprisingly some of those involved in the practice of Piracy have had their moan and have fallen back on one or more of the ‘reasons’ stated above – as I have said none of which are tenable.
In my opinion anyone who wants to support continued creativity in magic; marketing of innovative ideas and sharing of inspirational ideas from professional magicians, mentalists and mystery entertainers has a personal vested interest in supporting the Magic Pirates Exposed team.
Legitimate dealers and publishers of the work of those same creators have at least an economic interest in protecting the copyright of the works they sell and in supporting the exposure of known hacks and pirates.
As magicians, mentalists and mystery performers we have the joy of bringing moments of wonder to those we interact with. Our craft requires the same dedication as the musician, the painter, the actor, the singer – we are artists working in the medium of the mind – for pirates to take the creations of the Mage without honoring the work involved devalues it for all.
Review Published in The Cornishman 29th November 2012
It was almost standing room only at the Acorn last Friday night. Alan Jones was presenting his show to a widely appreciative, but completely baffled audience.
Alan had described his show as “a mixture of psychology, suggestion, intuition and theatricality”. It certainly was all that, plus it was a very entertaining experience.
He constantly surprised us. There were spooky – no other word for it – moments and a bewildering demonstration of mind-reading, along with times that appeared to be pure magic.
Alan is an accomplished showman and the various sections of his performance were smoothly linked by his warm humour and fascinating anecdotes.
When he talked about Houdini, you could hear a pin drop, and when he ‘worked’ with members of the audience there were many spine-tingling moments. Around me I heard murmurs: ”How did he do it?” I said it myself. I had no answer.
All I do know is that we witnessed some totally unexplainable events; learned some of the history of the greatest escapologist of all time and rocked with laughter at Alan’s, sometimes bizarre, sense of humour. His story of being dropped into Falmouth harbour, wrapped in several lengths of padlocked chains, was stunning. When he had rehearsed it earlier in the day it had gone badly wrong. He could not pick open one of the padlocks.
So if you want mystery, suspense, laughter and sheer entertainment, make sure you catch the next show by Alan Jones.
reviewed: Pat Quayle : published The Cornishman 28/11/12
Over the last few months I have had the opportunity to see a number of ’commercial stage magic/cabaret acts’ and so the following thoughts are based on my personal observations.
Now let me say this …
The following comments are personal opinion and not meant to single out any one performance over the other.
ALSO, all of the performers and performances who inspired these thoughts are full time working pro’s and, probably have a more complete date-book than my own.
They are working commercially…
And this is where I start my comments and thoughts.
There is a commercial expectation about what magicians are ‘all about’ – card tricks, cutting women in half, making things vanish and ‘fooling you’.
Magicians are, in part, to blame for this since they will freely talk about ‘tricks’ and ‘fooling folk’.
I don’t really think the experience of being fooled is the most motivational of experiences. As magicians we can enjoy it since it brings back something of our own innocence – but in general being fooled can be equated to being taken advantage of and that is far from pleasant.
The ‘commercial acts’ have been watching all seemed to fall into the standard stereotype of ‘magic’ and several lacked much of the finesse of the Devious Minds Show (reviewed earlier in this blog).
In my mind then I see two types of commercial magic acts…
Those defined by the consumer and their expectations and those offering something the performers themselves have defined as being a magical-entertaining experience.
One of the illusion acts I saw recently had decided to ‘theme’ their act upon a particular popular series of movies. I can understand the motivational driver – if we do something based on something popular then we are marketable.
I’m not sure it’s as simple as that.
Such a direct and obvious theme, down to looping the films soundtrack for musical backing, drives comparison to the movie blockbuster and not a celebration of the magic.
Of course bookers and agents will like such an act as it is ‘accessible.
Note being accessible rather than being ‘magical’.
I’ve fallen foul of local media needing to ‘box’ what I do, as often the press will use the tag “Cornwall’s Own Derren Brown”.
Of course I’m flattered by the comparison BUT I am NOT Derren Brown and with such billing could be compared unfavaourably with this super magician/mentalist… a kind of second or third best to the TV and Stage award winner.
Going back to the illusion act I mentioned above, they will never be the ‘action movie’ they based their act upon and as such open themselves up to being a second-rate Indiana Jones or Jack Sparrow.
Now I’m NOT saying that magic cannot be themed; what I am saying is that IF it is, it has to match the production values expected from its association with the high production/high budget endeavour.
The other issue about magic becoming a consumer product is that it will become homogeneous and lack definition.
It is for this reason that the biggest names in magic stand out from the also-rans – they bring their own brand of originality, and break expectations.
In my recent observations it wasn’t only themed illusion acts which were becoming in danger of being consumer-driven mush.
The cabaret patter acts are also prone.
Here I have witnessed working, and bookable professionals, using hackneyed lines without any sense of irony.
What makes some of these performances so depressing is that the rehearsed and scripted lines lack humanity, reference to the current audience and any attempt to build real rapport and emotional connection.
In one venue I was feeling quite uncomfortable as the stage performer, who had invited a young woman on stage, continued to deliver the same ‘cheeky’ lines they always delivered without any recognition of the fact that the onstage volunteer was no more than 16.
There was certainly a seedy edge to this which was not fun to watch. The performer concerned, who was technically proficient, was certainly not audience aware.
I was beginning to think that my negative reaction was just me being overly sensitive, but then another magician who was in the audience commented to me during an interval that he felt the same.
Perhaps the issue here is about considering the difference between ‘commercial magic’ and ‘consumer magic’. If these two ‘drivers’ are linked creatively then the magician can help re-educate the audience; challenge their expectations entertain with originality.
I know I must be getting old when it takes a little longer each time to recover from a couple of late nights. Ok, so perhaps a 450 mile drive to a gig and a 450 mile trek back is bound to take it’s toll – but even so…
However, the tiredness and required recovery period was well worth it. The Centre for Life in Newcastle is an impressive venue and having been asked to present a seance based show there for Halloween was a very exciting prospect.
A few days before I had had the opportunity to present an evening of ‘psychic fraud’ at the Plymouth Humanist and Sceptics Society. What a great bunch of folk and I can only hope they enjoyed it as much as I. The gig at the Life Centre presented another opportunity to talk in ‘rational mystic’ terms about aspects of the paranormal. Choosing to present a version of The Houdini Seance allowed for space to talk about scepticism as well as offer a few magical possibilities.
The Centre managed to attract over 800 people on Halloween to enjoy presentations of Peppers Ghost, a 3D Planetarium Show featuring the music of Pink Floyd (Dark Side of the Moon) and my Houdini Seance. Sheela, the event organiser and her team at the Centre certainly know how to throw a party and if you get the opportunity I’d heartily recommend a visit to this interactive educational establishment.
I can’t believe just how quickly time is passing – another cluster of months have gone by and my words have been few and far between on this site.
On the plus side my absence as been because of work and not because of anything else…
I’m writing now because I wanted to offer a review of a magic show I saw last night…
DEVIOUS MINDS at Wadebridge Town Hall, Cornwall 21st October
The show features Tim Shoesmith and Dean Maudsley and I first became aware of the show when I was booking my new show (It’s All In The Mind) at the Acorn in Penzance and was told that there was a ‘similar show’ booked the week before I had intended to play the venue. So my first step was to change my dates but my next was to ensure that I saw this show.
Now before I begin, we have to admit that financially it’s tough to get audiences at the moment and, in Cornwall, there are other mitigating circumstances which mean that small venues are finding it hard to keep going. Even well promoted and free shows in Penzance find it difficult to attract people away from their televisions or late-night-out for a few drinks. I had hoped to see the guys at The Acorn in Penzance on Thursday – but it was not well supported and so cancelled (in the same way I have had to cancel another (non-magic) show there this week. So I traveled to Wadebridge to see this show and I am so glad I did…. and I can honestly say Penzance missed out on a treat.
So the show…
It’s definitely a show of two halves which offer ‘devious distractions’ for all.
Tim Shoesmith presents some of the classic routines of magic, which included a rope routine that was playful, magical and engaging; a version of ‘the electric chairs’ masterfully handled along with a borrowed note routine and pickpocket sequence which brought his section of the show to a close. Audience participation was gently encouraged, a “mind reading” routine which Tim included was fun enough to suggest the mentalism which was to follow in the second half, but did not detract from it nor was it a simple filler since it had a charm and delight all of its own.
I really enjoyed Tim’s stage presence. He was friendly and extremely like-able. Within the first few minutes of his act he managed to capture and hold the audience and gain one of the most precious things a performer can be given – their trust. By the end of his act I had the feeling that the audience would trust this guy totally and completely.
Tim’s professional experience and understanding of magic as a performance art shines through in the structuring of his show.
One of Tim’s effects that I thought was a bit underplayed was his final thing with a kid and a glass of milk.
It was a quirky piece which works brilliantly because of Tim’s ability to react to an audience members interaction. I’m not sure if the subtle underplay was a deliberate thing or just seemed that way to me – but it took me back to some of those great routines performed with young people by today’s magicians like Lane Burton and David Copperfield who ‘interpreted’ what I know as Devants ‘egg trick’.
It, for me, is that category of gentle fun and perhaps could be a bigger feature in Tim’s act and in its quality is a hallmark of the playfulness which permeated his show.
The second half of the show featured Dean Maudsley who from the outset makes it clear that he is a con-man and cannot read minds …. but then commences to do so.
As a mentalist I am extremely interested in how a performer within this genre opens their show.
I loved Deans entrance and posturing which set’s up the initial feeling that this guy is going to be intimidating and then immediately eases that tension with his tight and quick paced introduction.
Like Tim before him he gains the audiences trust very quickly (perhaps more important for a Mentalist than a Magician – i.e. in terms of the speed of trust building?).
One of the problems faced by mentalists is that of giving the audience a sense of involvement.
For a magician the nature of the effects and the processes involved can be shared to a certain extent with an entire audience. They can watch the card being selected; see that it is returned to the deck and then appear in an impossible location.
In mentalism the effect is often that a spectator thinks or does something and the result of the though or action is ‘known’. It can be a simple one-on-one transaction which could exclude the rest of the audience.
Dean creates a shared experience with the audience and maintains a pleasant tension by ensuring that everyone feels ‘they could be next’.
I really enjoyed the act – Deans chair routine and ‘ending’ is superb!
In some of the smaller set pieces we hear about Deans fascination with an ‘old trick’ which led him to create the ‘effect he would want to be remembered for’ – some great emotional hooks here and all delivered with a relaxed confidence. Like some of the really super mentalists around today he really does challenge the idea ‘mentalism is boring’ by being sharp, witty, provocative and totally engaging.
Deans show, within the show which is Devious Minds, increases in pace and tempo as the climax is reached and I could feel the surprise and collective whispers of ‘how, what, no!” in the audience.
It’s been a month since my last post and for me it’s been mostly about preparing some new material for the forthcoming summer season. I have been mulling over the ideas about Magic and Meaning, so wonderfully expressed in Bob Neal and Eugene Burgers book of the same title and together with some of the more psychic entertainer style gigs I’ve been doing recently it’s becoming more and more of a question for me – and perhaps a mission!
That mission – to reclaim some of the history and relevance of The Magician in society.
The emotional impact magic can have on an individual is profound.
Now I’m NOT talking about using our skills to create illusions in which encourage audiences to believe in the paranormal or withdraw form critical thinking – BUT a moment of wonder and amazement can inspire creativity as well as criticism; awe as well as questions …
My recent work with a self-professed medium in which I counter his mediumistic demonstrations with psychological (intuitive) ‘readings’ has proven to be very popular. Such events allow for entertainment, questioning and ‘magic’ as well as satisfying my particular philosophy of Rational Mysticism.
So, a repeating question…
What are you doing to bring more than a wry smile when you perform your magic ?
How are you reclaiming the power of the magician?
The Victorian Seance Recreations I’m working on at the moment are planned to be entertaining, informative (based as they are on historical records), challenging and thought provoking.
Hi again…can’t believe how quickly the year is passing.
I hope those who have subscribed to my newsletter have received the last one ok and that there was some food for thought in it.
I’ve been thinking about the various aspects of the things I do and trying to explore just how I have let the word ‘magician’ slip from my day to day vocabulary.
My friend Jeff McBride for me is the epitome of a magician – he is never ‘on’ he is just always being a magician. If you’re a professional magician and you’ve not seen Jeff’s booklet “Magician 24/7″ then I would high;y recommend it.
Jeff is always ready to be the magician that he is… his ‘on stage’ persona is simply a large portrait of who he is when off stage.
And here’s the point …
Most ‘magicians’ act the part of being a magician because they accept that they’re illusions are illusions and hence their magic is not real’. With such an attitude being the ‘inner mindset’ of the ‘magical performer’ then there is the clear need to ‘get into character’ and ‘be someone else’ when performing.
But is that it?
Have we reduced magic to a performance which exists only in the frame of the cabaret floor or theatre stage?
I must admit that it is this thinking that had led me to drop the word ‘magician’ when describing myself. I, like many, have opted for titles that we deem to be more ‘marketable’ – Enigmatist, Paranormalist, Mind Reader, Unusualist, Psychological Illusionist and so on.
I have conspired with the general pubic to relegate the word ‘magician’ to presenter of ‘cheap tricks’ and ‘petty distractions’ – or to a mythical being whose only value is to amuse children and the ill-informed.
Magicians-turned-Skeptics who police the world for paranormal fraud have further confounded the pubic perception of ‘magic’…
Now let’s be clear hear.
I am not for one minute supporting those who use the tools of the magicians craft to ‘con’ others into believing in some fairy-tale reality wherein they, the all-powerful-wizard, possess the secrets of health, wealth and spiritual connection (should that indeed be part of your metaphysical mind-set) have the sole ability to ‘connect’ you with your destiny – and then make you pay heavily for that connection.
Nor am I suggesting that we need to encourage people to engage in pre-scientific, medieval thinking.
Magic, as defined by the mystics, is the ‘art and science of bringing about change in accordance with will’. So putting aside the lengthy discussion about what ‘will’ really is, we can see real magic all around and we engage in magic ritual every day.
I seek to communicate with the ‘other side’.. my ‘will’ is to converse with an entity who has passed over…
So I consult my grimoire of magical numbers and associations..
I find the correct sequence of numbers to chant over my wand…
And I am connected long-distance to a friend in the USA.
My magical grimoire is my phone book… My wand my voice activated iPhone….
OK, so not wishing to push the analogy too far, I think you get the point…
The act of living and communicating and simply be-ing is magical.
Gazing at the night sky and seeing stars, galaxies and the endless possibilities within the cosmos is awesomely magical.
How the individual chooses to make sense of their personal experiences is where some of the dogmatism and hence challenges lie.
Ok. So what has this got to do with card tricks?
What have card tricks to do with magic?
In the strictest sense – absolutely nothing…
They are ‘tricks’ – they are not pieces of magic.
These ‘tricks’ can be transformed into magic by the way in which they are performed; by the meaning we as the magician give to the act of the performance.
Jeff’s Magician 24/7 is not about being ready with the a ‘trick’, but about being able to share an experience…. wherein lies the magic.
Sharing and experience, a kind word, a smile can be considered as a magical act. We all know how easy it is to transform moods and bring about changes within the minds of others by the way we treat them – this, my dear reader, is part of being magical.
I write these words as a spell to affirm what I have been thinking; this in turn reminds me of my own changing ideas – which in turn, now shared, may prompt changes within you.
So I am a magician and the various worlds which I have inhabited; my multiple personalities defined by my apparent need to market my services, are in collision.
“Magic has lost all its magic. These days, it feels more like a sleekly packaged act of illusion engineering. The eye-popping, jaw-dropping, awe-inducing wonderment that used to accompany the abracadabra has mysteriously vanished into thin air. All one gets to hear now is the incredulous catcalls of killjoys screaming: “Haven’t we seen this on YouTube before?” Things were much better in the pre-internet era. The worldwide brotherhood of magicians went to great lengths to create an aura of mystique around their tricks. No one ever wrote ‘sleight-of-hand’ manuals or shot ‘Magic for Beginners’ videos explaining the elaborate deceptions. Part of the charm flowed from the larger-than-life persona projected in the public eye.”