FISM 2012 Blackpool
9th - 14th July
Reported by Walt Lees
Photographs © Daniel Eden www.eden-photography.net used with permission
The weather for the week was nothing like as drear as forecast; so things got off to a much brighter and more pleasant start than anticipated. The 2,500 registrants each received a FISM shoulder bag, a souvenir teddy bear and a specially printed large-sized leather-bound hardback 280 page compilation drawn from the three Jack Hughes books published by Taurus Magic. Then those who wished could visit the 135 dealers. The programmed events kicked off in the Opera House with a musical introduction by host Frank Wilson singing while seated at the keyboards, well away from the stage. A rendition of his FISM theme song There’s Magic all over the World led to a spectacular laser and firework display on a scale that can only take place in a vast auditorium. Then overall supremo Derek Lever briefly took to the stage to introduce International FISM President Eric Eswin, who welcomed us with short speeches in five different languages. He then went on to bring out over eighty national Presidents, before handing back to Frank Wilson, who introduced the first performer.
This was the UK’s Marc Oberon, who with the aid of three assistants presented the latest incarnation of his UV act, an undersea spectacular with floating fish, sea monsters and water spirits. Although not strictly magic, parts of it are extremely baffling, like the sequence where he fights an invisible opponent with Star Wars style light swords.
Russian comedy stars Voronin & Svetlana, now based in Germany, followed in the guise of a pompous magician and his overenthusiastic student, getting into a needle match over who could make the tallest newspaper tree. Lots of very amusing bits of business, with Svetlana the student finally triumphing over her self-important teacher, despite all the medals and awards he kept showing us. A very funny act with some subtle touches. For example, the way they manage to make such large trees from single sheets of newsprint.
Jupiter (one of the most regular visitors to the UK) from Hungary, followed with an act of card productions, ropes, silks and billiard balls. A lot of neat touches and some clever subtleties.
After getting the audience whistling If I Were a Rich Man, Frank Wilson introduced Joseph Gabriel with a refreshingly modern approach to dove magic. Working on a completely empty stage, the few props involved being brought on by his attractive assistant, he produced numerous doves, a falcon and a duck. A really strong interlude was provided by the levitation of a hypnotised dove, which behaved impeccably (or should that be impeckably?). Considering that the doves were loaned by Brian Sefton it speaks volumes for Joseph Gabriel’s expert handling that they were so well behaved.
The final act was Clive Webb & Danny Adams plus AN Other creating riotous mayhem with their version of the traditional clowns’ stock-in-trade wallpapering sketch. Sitting on the front row is a high-risk business. At one point, Danny, after skidding across the stage on his stomach and landing on the floor, having belly-flopped nearly four feet, promptly stood up and daubed my head with paste. You have to admire the athleticism, timing and precision which this kind of comedy requires if it is to be done as well as these three do it.
Matthew Johnson in the Spanish Hall, resplendent in a sparkling jacket, gave us his impression of Max Maven and also answered a question in French with, “Je ne parle pas Français!” then pointed out that he just had! Joshua Jay in the Pavilion showed his ACAAN although strictly speaking, it should be Any Card At Any Page, as a book is used. But the card force is a very subtle one with lots of applications. I also saw his vanish of three coins. Later, I caught the extravagantly-moustached Axel Hecklau demonstrating a very clean Rope Through Wrist, and Boris Wild expertly jazzing with his marked deck.
My duties elsewhere prevented me from seeing any of the competitions but I am told there were some fantastic acts. Derek Lever, who watched them all on Monday, says that he saw at least five that he is seriously considering booking for the Blackpool Convention. And that was only on the first day! If subsequent days yielded a similar standard, then a whole tranche of new faces can be expected to emerge on the international scene in the near future.
Although called the Late Late Gala, it actually started at 8:00 p.m. and finished just after 10:00. But that anomaly aside, the show itself was top grade. After the warm-up by Frank Wilson with vocals at the keyboards, the show commenced with Topas’s comedy shrinking illusion, followed by his “Hawaiian Orange Trick” involving a squeaking orange, leis and a baffling production of orange juice. Following a mini Zig Zag using himself, he was joined by partner Roxanne for a cod exposure, à la Masked Magician, of producing and vanishing a girl in a Perspex chair. However the tables were turned when the girl became the magician, while he appeared in the auditorium.
Compere Mike Caveney then introduced himself, and brought on his other half Tina Lenert with her now well-established but still superb mop act. Considerable artistry is evinced in the way in which the mop figure has a completely separate identity and seems to move independently of her. Even the final dress change has a rationale within the “narrative”.
Fred Compagnie Poc the sedentary juggler who stormed the Blackpool Convention Gala last February, repeated his triumph, getting a partial standing ovation for his incredibly precise ball bouncing skills. An unusual act and as most of it is performed while seated, unlike that of any other juggler I have yet seen.
Katalin, now based in the USA but originally from Europe, was next with a sexy outfit and pink-themed décor, She used silks, ropes and billiard balls before a final sensational change from leotard to disco dress behind a couple of feather fans.
Unbilled, Anna Wilson, daughter of Frank, began singing along with her father during the interval, and by popular demand was pushed onto the stage to render a couple of numbers herself, receiving considerable applause for her obvious talents.
The “official” second half opened with Rafael’s well-known and ever-popular vampire act, one of the most innovative and well executed novelties around today. A light-hearted horror spoof with a girl who really is cut in half and a hunchbacked assistant, through whose torso a hand can pass. Mike Caveney then did a longer spot, including a comedy routine with a bow & arrow to find a chosen card, followed by a demonstration of some of his juggling skills with a glass of coffee and centrifugal force.
Soma followed with his FISM winning act, full of novelty and skill. Mayhem with mobile phones, a moving briefcase and lots of brilliant touches, call-backs and sound effects. Finally, Topas and Roxanne returned to close the show with comedy and a stunning combination of levitations on a raised platform, climaxing with an Asrah style vanish and Roxanne suddenly appearing at the back of the auditorium.
Shoot Ogawa started the day in the Pavilion Theatre with his usual blend of technical brilliance and innovativeness. Among other things, we saw a way of making elastic bands turn into a variety of different objects, and how to cause almost everything he touched to become magnetic. Matrix followed and a dissertation on the strength of repeating the same effect using different methods.
Chad Long in the Spanish Hall had plenty of off-beat stuff with twists of humour, including a novel knitting of a silk and a book test with a torn-up paperback. Marc Oberon showed some of his subtle magic, including his version of Mental Epic and prediction of a freely-selected number. John Archer offered a neat card coincidence which made use of Rough & Smooth, and also took us through his Just-Chance handling that fooled Penn & Teller; all done in his own inimitable style, which, despite language barriers still garnered plenty of laughs.
Wayne Dobson assisted by Michael J. Fitch presented an updated and expanded version of the autobiographical talk This is Your Life with film clips and illustrations of some of his magic. Lots of anecdotes and humour, which somehow make his story all the more poignant. We watched his rapid rise to stardom, whilst keeping secret that he had Multiple Sclerosis and knowing his time at the top could only be brief, followed by his resolute optimism and cheerfulness in the face of misfortune, and dogged determination to keep going. Afterwards, Derek Lever presented him with Blackpool Magicians’ Club’s Magician of the Year award and read out a bitter-sweet poem of defiance of misfortune that Wayne had written. Jay Scott Berry rounded off the afternoon with his smooth professional handling of silks and gimmicks to use with them.
While the evening’s close-up show was running Matthew J. Dowden lectured in the Pavilion with some very practical magic by one of the UK’s real workers.
International Close-up Gala
This took place in two sessions, in the Olympia section, each with an audience of roughly a thousand on tiered seating who could follow the action on a large screen behind the performers. Those who preferred, could watch on plasma TV screens in the Horseshoe section. Compere Greg Wilson kicked off the proceedings by bringing several people forward to fill unoccupied seats near the front. He also produced a bottle from a transparent bag and then introduced Matthew Johnson from Canada (via Sheffield UK or vice versa), who gave us a version of Tossed-out Deck, involving five participants donning silly hats and dancing to The Village People’s recording of YMCA. More conventionally close-up as we know it, was Shoot Ogawa who followed with an immaculate card routine in which Kings became Fours, the backs changed colour etc. Then the production of a coat hanger from a purse led into some superb coin work.
Mark Mason now of the USA but formerly of Leeds and Blackpool, lifted the audience with some funny lines whilst performing an elaborate card routine, which culminated in clobbering everyone when a signed card was found in a different deck, in exactly the right place, despite the cards being in new-deck order. Then, as a kicker, the deck from which the card had been taken, and which had been frequently shuffled and cut throughout the preceding effects, was also found to be in new-deck order.
Michael Weber, who followed, offered something completely different. Wearing only jeans and a sports shirt, he vanished a coin and in order to find it, began removing objects from his pocket … more … and more … and more, until the table was piled impossibly high with decks of cards, cigarette cartons and sundry other items. Kozmo from the USA is a street magician, who paid tribute to his mentor, the legendary Cellini by showing brief video footage of him, before launching into his own routine, combining Chop Cup with Sponge Balls under Hat, large load climaxes and signed Note in Lemon.
Greg then performed his own Sympathetic Rubik’s Cube followed by solving the latter behind his back, before introducing Boris Wild from France with a poetic routine, involving pictures of butterflies and the photo of a young lady. Marc Oberon followed with his signature multiphase locations of any card called for and then segueing into his well-known everything-turns-to-gold sequence, all beautifully and smoothly executed. Finally, came France’s David Stone who, at the first house, garnered a standing ovation for his lively comedy and expert misdirection. He tells you that he’s going to misdirect you and what he will do while your attention is distracted, does it and still catches you.
Michael Weber in the Pavilion pulled a deservedly large crowd for some of his brilliantly subtle thinking. He also passed on useful tips about labelling special decks and quickly creating what appears to be a sealed deck. Simultaneously, Jay Scott Berry, in the Spanish Hall was passing on finesses with the Sanada Gimmick and his own Cloaking Device. Later, in the same venue Mark Mason explained a very strong and amusing Three Card Trick routine which culminated in one of the cards turning into a previously signed and selected one. He also passed on some useful tips about approaching people in commercial close-up situations. Coin master Eric Jones, meanwhile, was teaching his exquisite handling of 3 Fly in the Pavilion.
Boris Wild in the Spanish Hall demonstrated some ingenious uses of his marked deck with the help of a few computer gags in a lecture called Classics Go Wild. While Michael Ammar in the Pavilion was showing the capabilities of his reels with the aid of slow-motion films, before demonstrating his Little Hand gag, plus a superb Cups & Balls where the spectator seemingly does everything, and a neat T&R Signed Card.
Later in the Spanish Hall, Kozmo told how he became a street magician, demonstrated some of his routines and discussed the need for a climax, while in the Pavilion a near-capacity audience learned from Eberhard Riese and Topas some of the ingredients that go into producing original magical presentations, e.g., inspiration, costume, suitable objects to use and whether to be a killer, victim or witness.
Comedy Capers Gala Show
Voronin got things off to a great start, entering with no introduction; very, very slowly crossing the stage and exiting on the other side. It sounds like nothing –and if anyone else tried to do it, probably would be. But there is something so inherently comical about his clownish pomposity and ill-fitting coat tails that defies you not to laugh. There followed a series of sight gags and cod effects, but every now and then, at just the right moment, a real mystery. All the backstage crew seemed to get dragged into the act, even being made to dance, as his remote control seemed able to manipulate anything and anyone.
Voronin, is, in a way, a fantasy character. And so was the second act, the pixie-like Blub (Gennardy Kil) in a mauve outfit: part Dickensian and part fairytale. He excitedly does just about everything possible in the bubble-blowing line… and quite a lot that looks impossible.
Slotted in at number three was twelve-year-old Tigran Petrosyan, working solo because, for some reason his brother Sos Jr. was unable to obtain a travel visa in time. As a barefoot urchin with an umbrella, he performed ball manipulations backed up by a fluid, almost balletic grace, which drew considerable applause from an appreciative audience.
The ever popular and reliable John Archer garnered plenty of laughs despite a large proportion of the audience having English as a second or third language … or no English at all. After his unique handling of a Kenton Knepper prediction he creased us up with his version of the Five Keys. Who else could get a laugh by just putting on his wedding ring and saying nothing?
To close the first half, Clive Webb, Danny Adams & Co took over the stage with their own brand of complete mayhem. Sight gag followed sight gag, leaving the floor littered with the debris, a volunteer smothered in paint and an audience helpless with laughter.
Compere Stan Allen opened the second half with the aid of an eleven year-old girl called Hannah, some jumbo cards and a puppet rabbit by the name of Stuart.
His animation of the latter was brilliant. It really did have a mind of its own as it struggled and eventually succeeded in finding a chosen card.
The Great Nardini (Paul & Mhari) then went through their pyromaniac dove-killing antics with their multi-award winning comedy act, getting a huge laugh for the final spoof sub trunk. Richard McDougall impressed and amazed with his extraordinary miming abilities as he struggled fruitlessly to light a cigarette. Interesting to see how such small, almost inconsequential magic can completely dominate a massive theatre when it is so well done.
To close the show, came the only non-comedy act, illusionists Amethyst (Danny, Annette and Sarah) who zipped through a series of productions, penetrations, flames, spikes and smoke and, to finish, the tigress Rhani, whose appearance created a sensational climax to the show.
Marc Oberon and John Archer repeated their earlier lectures in the two venues. Then, in the afternoon the Petrosyans (Sos, Victoria and Tigran) took over the Spanish Hall to demonstrate the mechanics of some of their high-speed costume changes. Meanwhile Cameron Francis in the Pavilion was close-upping with, among other things, a name tag that changed places with a cased deck; a lie detector with a kicker ending and a transposition of a stapled Joker with a chosen card. All fairly easy to do and highly practical.
This innovation seems to have met with almost universal acclaim. The idea was to have about ten tables with no more than a dozen people at each. A top performer would visit for a brief period and provide expert answers to any questions. From the feedback afterwards, the teachers seem to have enjoyed it every bit as much as the pupils. The fact that it overran by nearly half an hour and even then people seemed reluctant to leave, testifies to its success. Taking part were: Michael Ammar, Jay Scott Berry, Cameron Francis, Kozmo, Joshua Jay, Eric Jones, Mark Mason, Shoot Ogawa, David Stone and Greg Wilson.
Circus & International Banquet
Blackpool’s famous Tower Circus provided the evening entertainment, followed or preceded (depending on which of two groups you had been placed in) by the international banquet at the Winter Gardens. For the latter, you were able to choose a national cuisine of the dozen or so on offer (American, Chinese, English, German, Italian, Spanish etc.). For the circus visit, the delegates were met and led by a small local jazz band. The show itself was a non-animal wild-west themed one, with a youthful energetic cast of mainly acrobats. Surprisingly, there was no juggler and only one clown, but the level of skill, exuberance and daring was amazing, drawing widespread praise from everyone who went.
Joshua Jay in the Spanish Hall was showing a very subtle way of producing a corner-torn borrowed banknote from anywhere you like, without the need for switching the corner at the beginning. He also showed his Prism Deck which makes a great climax to any colour-changing-backs routine.
Henry Evans demonstrated a deck production from a folded paper leaflet and a repeat prediction in which a card reversed by a spectator in one deck matches one previously reversed by the performer in another.
The irrepressible David Stone stormed a packed Spanish Hall with the startling flight of a coin from one hand to another; a visual instant change of a card, a colour-change deck and a bottle production. Axel Hecklau in a nearly full Pavilion had a superb dice and cup routine, similar to the Chop Cup but using an unfaked leather shaker.
For the Master Class in the Spanish Hall, a number of the stars of the convention each spent ten minutes explaining a particular subject: Jay Scott Berry showed a silk production and some knotting techniques; Eric Jones had a simple coin transposition and a vanish of a coin in a borrowed hat; Michael Ammar explained a production of a mobile phone from a folded envelope and a quickie with a handkerchief for use when on a stage; Boris Wild used repositionable glue to achieve a startling transformation of five indifferent cards to a royal flush; Shoot Ogawa demonstrated some linking techniques with the Ninja Rings and a sucker coin vanish which looks like sleeving but is not. Mark Mason showed a way to apply a nesting coin to locate a chosen card in a cased deck and then briefly touched on his technique for the Classic Force; Michael Weber performed what looked like a super memorisation of cards but really required little memory technique; finally Marc Oberon taught how to instantly cut to any card called for in the special deck which he makes and sells and explained a neat Rising Card using the pinkie as the secret mechanism.
Later Chad Long held the Pavilion audience enthralled with an ingenious production of four coins under four cards, his memory-stick colour change routine and pulling a card out of a wall. While Greg Wilson in the Spanish Hall produced a bottle from a paper bag. Stretched a borrowed ring and did a series of transpositions with a coin and his own finger ring.
Opening to only a voice-over introduction was Han Seol-Hui from South Korea but no stranger to the UK, whose bouncy act with CDs being manipulated in a sort of hybrid crossover between cards and coins, is abundant with skill, energy, novelty and zest. One unexpected moment came when Soma, accompanied by his animated briefcase, strolled across the back of the stage.
Then we got our first taste today of compere team, Clive Webb, Danny Adams and AN Other and their own brand of clownish wildness. When you see the enormous number of large props this gang transport, often for just a single sight gag, you wonder where they keep all their stuff. By contrast, Richard McDougall followed with his puppet goose, which expresses so much by doing so little; often putting a depth of meaning into a barely-perceptible twitch.
Sos & Victoria Petrosyan bring a speed, grace and elegance to quick change that take it to new levels of smooth perfection. The mauve-suited elfin-like Mr Blub then made the first of two appearances, this time with a tap-dancing number and comedy based on microphone feedback, which involved dragging Steve Evans out of the audience, to hold the offending device high in the air.
The double act between Tony Chapek and his alter ego on a TV screen is again no stranger to the UK and Blackpool. There are some very clever bits as he passes items in and out of the picture and changes places with his on-screen image. To close the first half, Paul Zerdin’s ventriloquial antics with his dummy Sam brought the house down, as did the bit when David & Ann Plant were conscripted into putting on false mouths and doing an improvised dance.
Rafael & Co opened the second half with a completely new to the UK act, which began with an aerial view of him lying in bed and involved levitations and animations of several objects, transformations of scene and a girl who kept appearing and disappearing in various unexpected ways, while another lost her head and had it replaced by a pot of flowers. All comically surreal.
Paolo Giua from Italy smoothly manipulated cards, balls, cigarettes and smoke, interwoven with repeatedly producing Oscar statuettes with which to award himself. Then Mr Blub returned with partner Sabrina Frackelli for a high-speed juggling act with tennis balls and rackets that stormed the place. Clive, Danny & Co next attempted the Flying Car with disastrous (and explosive) consequences.
To close the show, Canadian Greg Frewin assisted by three girls performed dove magic and illusions, finishing with a brilliant substitution. Along the way, there was his rendition of the Origami Box combined with a broken and restored mirror, and a baffling production of a bowling ball to fool those familiar with the usual method.
FISM Finalists Show
The finalists were announced on the Saturday afternoon and reprised their performances: Card Magic: Jan Logemann (Germany), Micro Magic: Andost (USA), Parlour Magic: Yann Frisch (France), Stage Illusion: Prince of Illusions (Marcel Kalisvaart) (Netherlands), Manipulation: Yu Ho Jin (South Korea), Comedy: Doble Mandoble (Belgium), General Magic: Marko Karvo (Finland).
Outgoing President Eric Eswin formally handed over the reins to Domenico Dante, who in turn was presented by Derek Lever with a ceremonial medal from Blackpool Magicians’ Club. The new Presidium are Gerrit Brengman and Peter Dinn. We were also told that the next FISM will be in Rimini Italy, while the 2014 Euro FISM will be hosted by France and take place on a cruise liner. The awards were then presented with Yo Ho-Min and Yann Frisch both receiving the Grand Prix.
Closing Ceremony Show
There was no on-stage compere. Instead, Frank Wilson did the job while seated at the keyboards, filling in with musical numbers between the acts. The Dolphin Dancers opened and closed. Vladimir was the first magician, dressed all in white and, after a fairly conventional manipulative act, finishing with a very baffling Vanishing Radio. Carl & Dave did their comedy act but missed the mark with this audience. Michael Pearse the octogenarian Irish comedy juggler got the loudest and longest applause of anyone, run a close second by operatic singer Victor Michael who, for part of his act was accompanied by an unbilled soprano. During the interval, Ann Wilson sang a couple of songs; then the second half opened with manipulator James More. Martyn James did a selection from his longer illusion act, featuring his signature Barrel Illusion and the barbed-wire hoops trick. Finally Dirk Losander floated tables and soap bubbles. Perhaps a lot of us were a bit “magicked out” by now, but the reception of this show was less enthusiastic than any of the others during the week.
In the non-FISM events, Tom Crosbie of York (UK) won the Beat the Wand trophy and Marty Soren from Finland the £6,000 diamond in the lucky dip. Ian Kent presented it to him just before the Friday Gala.
Every day, Kenny Bowe ran an exhibition of old theatre posters. Seeing who was working with who, and bottom-of-the-bill acts that later became big stars, was a fascinating trip down memory lane.
Gay Ljungberg who is in charge backstage for all FISM conventions, was so impressed with the excellence of Duncan Jump and the Opera House stage crew, that he suggested they become the permanent FISM convention team.
Full List of Awards
Grand Prix Stage: Yu Ho Jin (South Korea) photo
Grand Prix Close-up: Yann Frisch (France) photo
General Magic (Stage)
1st: Marko Karvo (Finland)
2nd: (joint) Les Chapeaux Blancs (France) and Won Keun-Ha (South Korea)
3rd: Ta Na Manga (Portugal)
Ted Kim (South Korea)
1st: Doble Mandoble (Belgium)
2nd: Mikael Szaniel (France)
3rd: Jean-Phlippe Loupi (France)
1st and Grand Prix Yu Ho Jin (South Korea)
2nd Lukas (South Korea)
3rd Kim Hyun-Joon (South Korea)
1st and Grand Prix Yann Frisch (France)
2nd: (joint) Marvellous Matthew Wright (UK) and Johan Stahl (Sweden)
3rd Pierric (Switzerland)
1st Jan Logemann (Germany)
2nd Patrick Lehnen (Germany)
3rd Zeki Yoo (South Korea)
1st Andost (USA)
2nd Jaque (Spain)
Joint 3rd Red Tsai (Taiwan) and Vittorio Belloni (Italy)
1st Marcel Prince of Illusions (Netherlands)
2nd Cubic Act (France)
3rd Guy Barett (UK)
1st place not awarded
2nd Kristoph Kuch (Germany)
3rd Christian Bichof (Switzerland)
Other FISM Awards
Invention: Tango (Argentina)
Most Original in Close-up: Simon Coronel (Australia)
Creativity and Artistic Vision: Teller (USA)
History, Research and Scholarship: Mike Caveney (USA)
Theory: Eugene Burger (USA)
Honorary President of FISM: Eric Eswin
© Walt Lees, July 2012