The 36th International Magic Weekend, London.
November 23rd, 24th , 25th 2007
Reported by JJ
Photos by Duncan Trillo
"Ron's Day" was held last weekend at the
Novotel/Shaw Theatre in Euston.
The Shaw Theatre with its tiered seating allows an excellent view of the stage, in comfort, for everyone which is so different from the conditions in the old Empire Rooms with its pillars blocking people's views and the shortage of useable space for the spectators and acts alike. The hotel has plenty of space for people to move around and "network" but this year I sensed that this new venue was beginning to acquire some of the chaotic, electric atmosphere of the old venue that so many of us loved.
Indeed the Shaw theatre seats even have little fold out, airplane like, trays which turned out to be just right for putting a small Sony laptop on for anyone who wanted to blog from the theatre itself or take notes for MagicWeek!
The opening event was Guy Hollingworth 's one man play entitled "Expert at the Card Table".
Some years ago Guy performed the same play at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival but here he showed that he has taken it even further in the way of presentation.
Guy tells the story of two men, S.W. Erdnase and E.S. Andrews who were friends from different backgrounds but who shared and interest in magic, especially card tricks, and who eventually worked together cheating people in games of cards. They fall out after one of their victims commits suicide and go their different ways. SW Erdnase writes his book "Expert at the Card Table" which contains an explanation of the card cheats techniques and as well as card tricks that can be presented with their use. Andrews goes off the rails and has to disappear quickly after a series of misdeeds. (I don't want to reveal too much…)
The story allows plenty of opportunity for Guy to demonstrate his mastery of a pack of cards for the edification of the assembled magicians despite the fact that the play is aimed at the general lay public.
And it is quite clearly designed as a play to be viewed live and by a much smaller audience than here. I say this because there were one or two complaints concerning the use of the video screen and the fact that the camera was fixed on the card table and did not follow Guy as he moved around. If you were watching the screen (as magicians used to seeing close-up aided by a video screen tend to do) some actions moved off screen and you missed them. The audience was meant to watch the performer. The screen was only to show the cards when they were laid out on the table top. Anything else was intended to be watched live. I understand the original plan was to have an overhead camera pointing directly down on the surface of the table but at the last moment this turned out not to be possible.
It was an engaging and dramatic tale, brilliantly performed and had flawless sleight of hand card magic too. What more could anyone want?
The second and third performances of the night were lectures by Anthony Owen and Dynamo. Both were excellent in their own way but showed a total contrast between the experienced lecturer and the beginner.
Anthony presented an extended version of the lecture he did at the Magic Live Convention in Las Vegas in August. Smooth, professional and packed with strong magic (with a mentalist slant.) The explanations were comprehensive and clear and at the end there were books, DVDs and tricks for sale. If you had a photographic memory and the analytical brain of a professor of mathematics you would have been able to work out the various offers and discounts you were entitled to if you bought more than one item!
Dynamo 's lecture was different to the above. He told us this was his first ever lecture and it showed.
Dynamo has a clearly defined character (himself) and this character places him in a market place unreachable to all but a tiny handful of magicians.
Resplendent in his baseball cap, casual top, saggy jeans and trainers he generously gave full explanations of several of his favourite effects, largely based on the use of an invisible loop of elastic (available from International Magic.)
Under normal circumstances I would call a professional magician who gave his effects and methods away to other magicians in the same city as he works stupid. But it is unlikely that any of the assembled magicians would compete with Dynamo on his patch!
There was one significant sequence where two cards were selected and shuffled back in the deck. He spun the first one out and caught it in his base ball cap where it then changes into the second selection. The young man explained, without any hint of showing off or boasting, that he called this effect the "New Era Card Trick" because New Era made the caps, he was sponsored by them to wear them and he had devised the trick for the television commercials he made for New Era!
Flash or what?
He showed us the stuff he actually does and the stuff that has led him to be booked by many notable people including the Prince of Wales. To anyone critical of the material I say here is a perfect example of the old, old saying "It's not the tricks you do that matters, It's how you present them."
Being new to lecturing and with a desire to give as much value for money as possible, Dynamo displayed a tendency to over explain his points which led to repetition. Also I have a concern over what is his to explain and what isn't… but over all a commendable first effort.
The Saturday morning and early afternoon was taken up with the close up competition which was won by Satoru from Japan who I had never seen before but who had won the SAM close up competition this year in America and he won here too.
A wonderfully charming and hilarious act which included a routine with toothpicks and a card trick climax involving the removing of his shoes and socks. Enough said. I am sure we will see more of this act.
Pattrick Pryszsieck from the USA came second with what in the world of magic is generally called "A competition act" involving the production of a globe and a series of travel related effects ending with the globe vanishing. Smooth and professionally done.
Gianfranco Preverino from Italy came third despite not being able to present his final routine which, as I understand it, depended on Andy Nyman being one of the judges. Obviously he had done some pre-show work based on faulty information. Andy wasn't one of the judges.
Gianfranco performed a card act seated at the table and was very smooth and polished but, as explained, he lacked a finish. Who knows where he would have come had things been different…
In this competition each year the judges award three "merit" prizes. These do not come with any cash but as the International competition must rank as the most prestigious close up competition in the UK it normally attracts a high standard of entrant. Thus merit prizes here mean something. Ask Chris Power…he has five of them.
The three this year were.
Francis Menotti with a brilliant piece where the words he is speaking start to get jumbled up as the cards get jumbled up with his shuffling was the freshest and best executed piece of close-up magic I have seen for ages.
John van der Put with a variety of magic (including sponge rabbits!) and laid back humour which I loved.
Troy Von Scheibner , a huge talent at eighteen years old. Very, very cool with an engaging personality and highly skilled impressions (Michael Jackson, a Bollywood Film Star and a Kung Foo Fighter.)
If he had stronger magic he would have walked it here.
I really enjoyed this competition and will definitely be getting the DVD if only to have a record of Troy before he "made it big"!
At the beginning of the prize giving ceremony which was given the respect it deserved by excellent "MC" James Freedman, the "Original Man of Mystery" David Berglas, gloriously turned out in a beautifully cut dinner jacket, (he explained he was off to an engagement straight afterwards) presented the very first "Berglas International Award for Magic" and it went to the MacMillan family. Totally shocked, for they had no inkling that they were to be awarded this prize, Martin, Georgina and Teresa took to the stage to receive the cut glass trophy with engraved stand. As they did so the audience, as one, took to its' feet and gave them the only standing ovation I saw at the weekend.
A more justified award in magic I have yet to see.
Reviews of the rest of the lectures and the International Close Up Show will have to be found from others as the pressures of the weekend together with a list of "business" I had to achieve before returning to Portugal meant I missed them.
The 36th International Magic Gala Show.
Both the Saturday and Sunday performances were completely sold out and you needed to know someone with the ticket tout skills of JJ to get a ticket. This fact (about the sell out, not my dubious skills) is a testament to the shows that have gone before.
Apparently the Saturday show had suffered from several technical hitches which I suspect might have resulted from the lack of time available for setting everything up but we had no such problems with the Sunday show.
With the high quality compering we have come to expect from Noel Britten the show opened with Jade and in front of this predominantly lay audience, her general magic act was very well received indeed. The evening was off to a great start.
Dana Daniels was very funny with his "Mind Reading Bird" (kindly supplied by Scott Penrose) and loads of sight gags and bits of business.
Svetlana , one of the only two weak spots in the show for me, did her contortion act featuring impossible and elegant body movements. The whole thing gained justification when as the applause was fading and the curtain had closed Noel Britten cracked a joke which ripped the audience apart and displayed just how much thought Noel puts into his work. If I didn't know better (which I do) and if I was a totally cynical sod (which I hope I am not) I would have suspected he had booked the act just to get that laugh!
Francis Menotti from the USA did a set mixing comedy (a somewhat laboured gag via a straight jacket escape) and mentalism which ends with him being stabbed in back and lying dead on the stage with the prediction (a jumbo card with a missing corner) fastened to his back by the offending knife. He is dragged face down offstage by the stage hands. Unusual.
Well, Mahka Tendo closed the first half and before commenting I have to state that I have seen Mahka many, many times and I am prejudiced re this act. He is quite clearly and without a shadow of a doubt my favourite manipulator around today. The fact that he is also a top man and excellent company does him no harm either.
So to the review…
Mahka Tendo presented his act "as known" and was brilliant. Ok, other manipulators will nit pick about this and that, but as a spectacle it is the best of its kind.
Opening the second half Just Alan presented his version of the Sands of the Desert. It opened with a long and atmospheric video featuring scenes of a tour of India with a "voice over" describing events and as the video ends the lights come up and reveal Just Alan in Indian costume sitting (crossed legged?) behind a low table on which there is the bowl and other items needed to present the effect of three different coloured sands being poured into a bowl of water which has magically turned black. The three sands are removed from the water separated and dry. Finally the black is made clear again. The presentation was very slow and obviously going for dramatic impact.
Juan Ordeix from Argentina did a more standard mentalist act featuring two multiple predictions. He has a very pleasant personality which totally hides the dastardly devious depths to which mentalists dive in order to achieve their mind boggling feats. He was very well received with gasps of disbelief from the helplessly ignorant laypeople in the audience! Good stuff.
Voronin from Ukraine but now out of America did his "act as seen" and was even better than I remember him. Mostly mime but with his trademark levitation remaining magically strong. Small, significant gestures emphasise the comedic points and are given increased impact by repetition. Another of my favourite acts.
The show closed with a thoroughly competent, working illusion act James Long. I am told by people who know better than me that it is obligatory to close a magicians' gala show with a box act. To quote Blackadder, "Does it always have to be this way?"
The show was over.
Next year you are advised to book early… (JJ has already ordered a fist full of tickets!) The organisers are planning a unique show next year, I am not allowed to say what, but as laymen or magicians you will enjoy it.
The majority of people now headed homewards and the hardcore conventioneers settled down to some serious bonding, drinking and networking. Sometimes all three at once. I had a truly excellent time and anyone who has been staying away since the change of venue should seriously consider returning as, without a doubt, Ron's Day is very much alive and kicking.
© JJ, November 2007
Keep up to date withn JJ via www.opusmagazine.co.uk - no one knows more about the great British breakfast (and rivals around the world) than this man.