by Kevin Gallagher
"Dress: Black Tie". I hate to see this on a contract. If I turn up wearing an evening suit to do table-hopping magic, I just know that I am going to get beckoned over only to be confronted with "could we have another bottle of red" or "I don't appear to have a dessert spoon." If everyone else is in black tie, I will simply blend into the background. I can though, understand why evening dress is sometimes requested; it is to prevent the situation where a performer turns up to a prestigious event looking like Crusty the Clown. Personally, I generally turn up wearing one of a number of magic outfits which are very smart, good quality and, most importantly, would make me stand out as a magician in the context of the event. The choice of outfit will be the one that most contrasts whatever the guests are wearing, indeed, if it was casual dress, I would then consider wearing an evening suit.
I think the key is, if someone was told that there was a magician working in the room, it should be immediately obvious to them who it was.
Sometimes, dress can go spectacularly wrong. I was once booked to perform at a large corporate event where six halls were set up as different parts of the world, each one being appropriately themed. For example, in 'The Far East', was a dragon dance with a number of people under a large fabric dragon, Chinese acrobats bouncing around and so forth. 'Africa' sported a tribal dance and steel drum band et cetera to backdrop of jungle scenes and noises. Over 1200 guests spent some time circulating around the venue to capture the flavour of each setting. Each hall was also serving food which in some way fitted the theme and an area set aside in each case with lots of small tables.
These were to be serviced by a variety of mix-and-mingle entertainers. Enter my very switched on agent who had been sub-contracted to supply six such artistes including myself as a close-up magician. My brief the week before the event- "It's a big event for important people so could you please wear black tie". At the briefing, I was informed that I had been allocated to work in 'Australia'. So if you will, picture the scene- a wooden shack serving XXXX lager and a chuck wagon serving burgers and beans both attended by people wearing kaki shirts, shorts and cork rimmed hats. Someone rolling around wrestling a large inflatable crocodile, large boxing kangaroos suits, all with a desert backdrop and 'waltzin' matilda' playing gently in the background. In the middle of it all, some pillock in an evening suit walking round performing card and rope tricks. Nice one cobber, maybe a little more research next time?
Generally, try to get the best feel you can for the event and dress accordingly. If in doubt, take two outfits, it is easy to leave one in the car or conversely, to clap your hands together and declare "right then, I'll go and get ready" if you come across an absolute stickler for black-tie.
© Kevin Gallagher November 2002