British Magical Close-Up Championships 2006
Blackpool, 24th February 2006
Reviewed by Rob James
Photo by Alan Jones
Nine magicians from throughout Europe competed for the title of "British Champion of Close-up Magic". Last year the name was changed to "European Champion" but the Blackpool organisers seem to have reverted to the original name.
Tommy Bird was first up. He did an entire act with a squirmle AKA the pitch item known as "the worm". It changed colour, jumped through a flaming hoop, turned into a butterfly and then grew to a huge size. A very novel and well constructed act.
Hayashi ditched his trademark translation machine routine and performed a coin act based on the Matrix movie, complete with shades, a long leather coat and a bit of kung fu dancing. Coin matrices featured as well as jumbo coin productions. Unfortunately the performance of the act in the main room was marred by some technical flaws and obvious fumbling but despite this the audience reaction was very favourable.
Matthew McGurk performed a varied act including a broken and restored Polo mint packet and a borrowed note to kiwi fruit. He did a sequence where he produced numerous coins while doing simultaneous coin rolls with both hands. This looked excellent. Matthew has adopted quite a few of the mannerisms of the early Nineties Gary Kurtz which is a real shame but hopefully that will change over time.
Next on was Darren Macdonald who has previously enjoyed great success in the stage competition at Blackpool. His lilting storytelling style didn't work quite as well in this environment but his performance was smooth with a good choice of strong effects.
Kevin Gallagher quickly recovered from a microphone problem (not his fault at all) and performed an act based on visual in-jokes for magicians. Taking traditional plots and turning them on their heads he showed a matrix with jumbo coins covering mini cards and a routine with three huge shells and a similarly oversized pea.
Olmac's act consisted of highly technical and dynamic coin and card magic including some breathtakingly beautiful colour changes and unusual flourishes. He closed with a signed card ending up inside of a CD that looked impossible. The most technical and upbeat act in the competition, this was a superb performance and must have been a very strong contender for first place.
Will Gray performed a "real world" act that while competent and clearly well worked in, did not stand out in this competition.
Will Houston quietly walked on and proceeded to perform an excellent sleight-of-hand routine to classical music. Like a non-arrogant Vallarino he performed some very elegant and near-flawless routines including a sudden production of three increasingly larger lighters that looked phenomenal. Will has a humble and charming style and was a worthy winner of the competition.
Mario Morris was the final act featuring cups & balls, using the Cellini cups.
1st Place and £1000 - Will Houston
2nd Place - Olmac
3rd Place - Hayashi
Photo above by Alan Jones (left to right) - Blackpool Magicians' Club President Arthur Casson, Will Houston, Olmac, Hayashi.
Judges: Mike O'Brien, Mike Gancia and John Derris.
© Rob James, March 2006