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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Scott's Thoughts - by Scott Wells » » Detailed Review of The Magic Circle Centenary (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

Scott Wells
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Houston, TX
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What a convention! The British really know how to throw a great party. It was of course more of a celebration than a convention with no contests, no trick lectures and no politics, just great talent from all over the world and stellar lectures on important magic-related subjects. And it was fun meeting people, seeing old friends and making business contacts. When all attention can be placed on a single event for several years by professional and dedicated people, then you should expect nothing less than great results. And we got what we expected. Everything was well run and started on time. All of the evening shows were flawlessly directed by TV impresario John Fisher and a competent stage, sound and light crew that made for a perfect show in every technical aspect. And as to the friendly prevalent atmosphere, well let me say that our Southern hospitality has nothing on the British. Everyone was cordial and extremely helpful.

The weather was near perfect after the first hot day and the rain stayed at bay throughout the four day event. Registrants were each given a commemorative collector’s coin with the image of The Magic Circle’s first president, David Devant, a four-color, perfect bound program (that served as a good place to collect autographs), another full sized booklet on the history of The Magic Circle and a beautiful cut crystal wine stemware.

Draped against a background of terror, not even the recent bombings, heightened security or closed tube stops dampened the spirit of the celebration. We experienced only minor inconveniences after the bombed bus was removed from outside the front door of the hosting hotel, the Royal National. The venerable old hotel was not air-conditioned and the tiny dealers room was more than a little cramped which made it quite uncomfortable; however, the 20 or so dealers were very happy with sales to the 933 registrants. Across the street from the hotel was the (air-conditioned) University of London where most of the activities took place.

One of the extra events on the bill was held at the Magic Circle headquarters, Steve Cohen’s Chamber Magic which was an intimate event he typically presents at New York’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel for the rich and famous. There was also an invitation-only reception at The Magic Circle headquarters for members of the S.A.M. which was a nice affair and an opportunity to extend hands across the “pond” from one great organization to another. It was interesting that 17 past international presidents of the S.A.M. were in attendance at this event. The talent list of the centenary read like a who’s who in magic in the world of magic and who wasn’t on the bill were seen in attendance just hanging out; like John Carney, Derren Brown, Jamy Ian Swiss and many other magical luminaries.

We started our rotation of events based on the color of our badges which worked out quite nicely and made for intimate settings for the events that followed. My group went to the all-British close-up show that featured Pat Page, Nicholas Einhorn, Bob Read, Michael Vincent and the legendary Alex Elmsley (yes, the one who invented the count). Perhaps I should stop using the word “legendary” here since there were so many here this year and I would otherwise start being redundant.

The opening Gala Show was unique from start to finish with an unusual twist…no emcee! As each act finished, they introduced the next. And who better to kick off the centenary than HRH Prince Charles with a taped welcoming segment with him performing a silk trick. Very cool! David Berglas opened with an historical segment on table tipping complete with a host of actors and stage backdrops recreating something from that era. Throughout the rest of the three and a half hour show were well over a dozen performers including Terry Seabrooke with his wrist-chopper routine, Mark Raffles (world-renown pick-pocket) performing a very funny and completely unique linking ring routine, British TV celebrity Geoffrey Durham with Cube-A-Libre, U.S. comedy magician Levent with a hilarious act that interweaved numerous sight gags with perfectly executed card and billiard ball manipulation, Scott Penrose’s recreation of the David Devant “Educated Goldfish” who spelled a random word by releasing letters that floated to the top of the fish tank in the correct order, Norm Nielsen’s elegant and famous floating violin act then coming full circle at the end with David Berglas having volunteers assist with a floating table. One of the funniest lines of the centenary was delivered that night by the brilliant English comic, John Archer, who said he’d never been on a show where there were more stars in the audience than there were on the stage.

The following morning Guy Hollingworth presented an excellent lecture on the process of creativity and problem solving. Although no tricks were taught, the process of how to refine a trick was thoroughly explained using a spreadsheet and practical examples. I would recommend getting a copy of his notes if you are serious about getting the absolute most and best out of any of your routines. Our group next saw the Ali Bongo show which was a series of lifetime reminisces from one of magic’s most creative (and busiest) magic consultants. Among his credits, he has consulted for movies (“Casino Royale”) and TV (The Paul Daniels show) and appears worldwide as the comical “Sheik of Araby.” The afternoon’s session was open again to all and featured the “Legends of Magic” and indeed they were. Matt Field, the editor of the Magic Circular (house organ for The Magic Circle) acted as the moderator on stage in trying to keep the event within the one hour time frame. This proved difficult to do when you had the likes of Silvan, Cesareo Pelaez , Peter Reveen, Billy McComb and Alan Alan all on one stage and at the same time. Each could easily have provided an afternoon of advice and entertainment.

We then went back to our color-coded shows where we saw Tomo Maeda from Japan. I was extremely impressed with this young television celebrity’s creativity and stage presence. His one hour close-up show was all original with ideas that all tied in together. His mastery of sleight-of-hand and American humor is to be complimented. One trick involved a card in balloon that failed but the pieces of the balloon picked up from the floor formed a diamond and the number eight correctly identifying the selected card. In another trick a card was rolled into a cylinder, a fuse was inserted, lit then “fired” like a cannon for an invisible flight of the selected card to the card box.

The evening’s gala was hosted by Paul Daniels who promised a shorter show than the previous evening’s show and featured another gaggle of magic stars. The acts throughout the evening had all been guests on Paul’s TV show and each interval was filled with trademarked Paul Daniels wit and comedy material and included a few video clips, too. The opening act was perhaps my most favorite of the entire centenary. Jerome Murat from France transformed a traditional mime act into a unique twist on the living statue act. His mesmerizing sequence transcended the mysterious keeping us intrigued and wondering from start to finish as the statue with two heads came alive. Norbert Ferre was another French magician with silent comedy that used sight gags to amuse and amaze. Hans Moretti was advertised on the bill but it was his son and daughter-in-law who actually performed the tension-filled crossbow act. Hans did appear at the end as he came out to take a bow. About a half dozen other performers filled out the balance of the evening’s show including the beautiful Japanese act of Maki Kitami and the fast dance stylings and juggling feats of Nathalie Enterline. True to his word, Paul’s gala was about two minutes shorter than the previous evening.

Jim Steinmeyer’s lecture the next morning was entitled “Five Terrible Ideas and How They Revolutionized Magic.” It examined the genesis of some great illusions by five creative magicians in history and how they kept at working on a concept that began as unworkable and not very entertaining until they finally arrived at a perfect illusion that could not be further improved. We then broke up into our colored badge groups and we were then treated to comedy magic from Las Vegas as only Mac King could deliver. And he hit the funny bone of the English and everyone else with his “Cloak of Invisibility” and his “Fig Newton to Fly” as he endeared the audience with his down-home southern charm and wit.

Following lunch, our colored badge group were completely captivated by that Spanish close-up conjurer, the legendary (there I go again) Juan Tamariz in his one-man close-up gala. Accompanied by a large screen TV, everyone could enjoy his comedy and his incredible skill and misdirection as he performed with nothing more than his mouth and a deck of cards. Back in the main hall, John Fisher conducted a one on one conversation with John Calvert. It was a thrilling ride through history as he talked about his career in the movies and on stage as well as his exploits around the world. The hour was concluded with a surprise as John was presented The Magic Circle’s “David Devant Award,” the highest honor given by the Circle. Going back to our colored badge grouping, we watched Marc Salem weave his mesmeric spell of mentalism over the audience as he read minds and performed other psychic feats concluding with a blindfold design duplication effect.

That night’s show was an “Evening of Enchantment” featuring Topas from Germany and Roxanne and Axel S. an incredible juggler specializing in the diabolo. Topas’ creative and original vignettes were interspersed with performances by Roxanne that tended to keep things moving and provided some variety with one “Rendezvous in the Spider Web” routine (that wove together a gothic romance with a touch of the sinister that ended with a levitation on a spider web) and another psychic demonstration that included a book test. But the feature act of Topas was incredible, fast-paced and thoroughly enjoyable. It included a segment from his award-winning manipulation act from FISM and another vignette depicting his room as a child. Magical things happened in his room and as he left the stage, his teddy bear turned his head and waved goodbye. He also made a surprise appearance from one of those silken figures that dance around when air is blown into them like you see at store openings.

Our badge allowed us to see the late night show of the Mod Cons (Modern Conveniences) hosted by Marc Paul. It was a variety show of British magicians and comedians some of whom had won the Young Magician of the Year at The Magic Circle in previous years. Loki kicked off the show in a guise reminiscent of the Joker from Batman in a silent act with some twists on some classics such as the dancing cane with a violin bow and a snowstorm (from the bar stool) that ended up inside an oversized snow globe. Max Somerset performed in chimney sweep attire and did a cool mentalism routine with a borrowed watch that was placed in an envelope amongst other fake watches and envelopes. After moving the envelopes about in the fairest manner, each envelope was smashed and the one with the borrowed watch left untouched. An envelope was opened to reveal the prediction of the correct position of the envelope.

The final day was finally upon us as our badge group enjoyed the Johnny “The Great Tomsoni” Thompson and Company. He regaled us with the Balls in the Net, the classic Egg Bag and his Nemo Card Wallet routines punctuated with his trademark humor and behind-the-scene stories. We then walked across the street to the University of London again this time to see the international close-up gala that featured 10 card poker tricks from Tony Binarelli, floating bubbles from Finn Jon, the I.B.M. Gold Cup performance of Jason Latimer, three card monti by Brenda Sinclair and incomparable sleight-of-hand by Tommy Wonder. That afternoon it was a free-for-all, first-come first-seated affair with three simultaneous events. First was John Gaughan, Paul Kieve, Charles Reynolds and George Schindler talking about what goes on behind the scenes on TV shows such as Doug Henning before there was today’s technology and off the Broadway stage of live theatre. Another event was David Wood called “Child’s Play it Ain’t” on entertaining children with magic and the third event was “Paper Magic” presented by Steve and Megumi Biddle who gave hands-on origami lessons.

The late afternoon event was performances by several of The Magic Circle’s best Young Magicians including this year’s winner, Steve Dela, who won the final competition the previous Sunday evening with a fast-paced manipulation act. We then rushed off to the S.A.M. reception at The Magic Circle headquarters, a quick dinner then back in time for the Grand International Centenary Gala. It started out with a bang with Jeff McBride’s “tearing off the mask” act followed in rapid succession of another nine or ten acts including Paul Potassy (a man with the international reputation of Mr. Electric) who performed his signature razorblade swallowing act, John Calvert producing cigarettes throughout the auditorium as Tammy followed him and caught every one he threw, Paul Daniels with several bits of comedy including his famous chop cup routine, Dimmare’s elegant dove act, a quick trick from Johnny “The Great Tomsoni” Thompson’s act, and a very British ventriloquist Ray Alan and his proper vent figure Lord Charles.

After a brief but touching video of Jay Marshall singing with Lefty “If I Had My Way” shown over the years, his son, Sandy Marshall, presented Lefty to John Fisher for the Magic Circle’s museum. Bill Palmer also presented a special set of cups and balls from his museum to the Circle in honor of Jay (this was done at a separate time and not during the Saturday evening gala).


Dani Lary from France presented the big illusions for the evening that included a floating grand piano that floated and even turned upside down and around in 360 degrees. His closer was an escape from a plastic cocoon that was wrapped around him and a pole made from plastic garbage bag type material. A curtain was pulled around him and in the blink of an eye, he emerged and his attractive assistant was imprisoned in the cocoon that had to be torn off of her. As everyone came out for a bow, Paul Daniels asked everyone who had appeared as any of the talent during the week to come on stage. It was quite impressive to see such a huge gathering of some of the world’s best magicians on one stage at one time. It was hard to imagine that we had seen that much magic over the past four days. We then adjourned back to the hotel for the farewell party with cake and drinks and the traditional balloon drop. It seemed that no one wanted the whole feeling and the affair to end. But nothing is ever over until the fat lady sings. So, sometime well after 1:00 a.m. a self-proclaimed overweight operatic soprano draped with the Union Jack closed with “Rule Britannia” and a few other songs signaling the official close to a thoroughly superb celebration.
"A magician who isn't working is only fooling himself." - Scott Wells, M.I.M.C. with Gold Star

The Magic Word podcast: http://themagicwordpodcast.com Listen to convention coverage, interviews with magicians, pictures, videos and more.

Magic Inspirations website for all things Banachek: www.magicinspirations.net
Scott Wells
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Special user
Houston, TX
993 Posts

Profile of Scott Wells
For all of you attended the centenary and have not yet used your wine glass, I received this note from local Houstonian, Steve Shain:
------
Tried some wine in the Magic Circle Goblet. Don't know how many are like mine - But...

The glass is cut deep in spots and it is a perfectly disguised dribble glass.

You've been warned!
"A magician who isn't working is only fooling himself." - Scott Wells, M.I.M.C. with Gold Star

The Magic Word podcast: http://themagicwordpodcast.com Listen to convention coverage, interviews with magicians, pictures, videos and more.

Magic Inspirations website for all things Banachek: www.magicinspirations.net
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