Friday 10th May 2013
Reviewed by Paul Voodini
On Friday 10th May, a hardy band of approximately 45 bizarre magicians and mentalists from around the world converged on Whitby, England to spend the weekend performing, attending workshops, and listening to lectures. The day of arrival was windswept and wild, and one was immediately put in mind of the day that dark fellow known as Count Dracula arrived in Whitby in the form of a black dog, bounding out of the surf as the Russian schooner The Demeter foundered and ran aground!
This annual meeting of bizarrists and mind-readers is known as Doomsday, and it takes place annually at Sneaton Castle atop a hill which overlooks Whitby town and harbour. The castle is run by nuns, but we tend to leave them in peace, preferring instead to torture only members of our own group with our nefarious skills and devilish abilities!
On the Friday evening, the assembled dark masses were treated to a lecture by Rob Lupine on the subject of tarot card reading on TV, and Pete Turner whose talk was a dazzling combination of lecture and performance.
Rob has worked for several 'psychic TV' channels in the UK, and he delivered an interesting talk that lifted the lid on this world where readings, the esoteric, and hard-nosed business make for strange bed-fellows. Next came the human firecracker that is Pete Turner. Pete is quickly making a legendary reputation for himself in the world of mentalism, having consulted for some of the biggest names in the business and having recently delivered a hugely successful on-line lecture via Penguin Magic. His lecture at Doomsday was a breathtaking display of creativity, energy, and original thinking. I don't think anyone who witnessed it will ever forget his take on Any Card at Any Number!
Following the lectures, most attendees retired to the bar to enjoy the company of spirits that are to be found housed within glass bottles of varying sizes and shapes. The wise, realising that the Saturday was going to be a full and long day, retired at a reasonable hour. A small party of hardy adventurers however decided to make the short journey into the centre of Whitby to eat at a rather nice Indian restaurant and, naturally, partake of some Indian beer...
After a most welcome breakfast, a rather bleary eyed Christopher Gould and Paul Voodini (having been part of the group that had visited the Indian restaurant until the wee small hours) were joined by a more sensible Steve Murray and Nik Taylor to present a round table discussion on the meaning and future of bizarre magick. The round table was chaired admirably by Madelon Hoedt, and the discussion elicited some interesting and passionate discussions, both amongst those sat at the table and the watching audience. The main points made, after a fascinating 45 minutes of discussion, were that some people do not like the term 'bizarre', while others think it serves its purpose well. Some thought the term 'mystery performer' more apt, but there were concerns that a lay audience would not understand what such a term actually means. Those seated at the table were perhaps most passionate about magic being a tool that can cause those watching to question, albeit for a moment or two, the very nature of the world and how it works. The thought was that magic can help a spectator to look through a window to another world, a world where childlike wonder abounds. The notion that we are actors playing the role of magicians was rejected in favour of us simply being magicians, magicians who are able to weave wonder into a world that can too often descend into the bland and grey.
Following a short break, Jon Thompson of Subversive Circuits demonstrated his rather wonderful Devil's Radio, and Dan Baines of Lebanon Circle gave a talk on the nature of hoaxes, with his own 'mummified fairy' hoax being used as an interesting and rather poignant example.
One of the universally accepted highlights of the weekend followed. Jim Critchlow, of White Star and the Fallen fame, gave us a fascinating and hilarious insight into the mind of the magical inventor. Jim had collected onto stage a wide variety of props, gimmicks and works-in-progress that he had abandoned due to the fact that 'they don't work'. Jim's self-depreciating humour had the room in hysterics, and few, I suspect, will ever forget the tale of the small boy curled up inside the table.
The pre-lunch session was brought to a close by a most illuminating and thought-provoking session led by Christopher Gould (Alchemy Moon) and Anthony Black. Every member of the audience was encouraged to get out of their seat and engage with the other people in the room. The idea was to determine who in the room you felt the strongest connection with, and also the person who you felt you could least empathise with. It was a most interesting experiment.
Following lunch the audience were enthralled by close-up bizarre performances from Ashton Carter, Marco Pusterla, Rob Lupine, Steve Murray and David Royle in the guise of Drago. This was perhaps the time when the most 'pure' bizarre magick was on display, with an emphasis on story-telling and interesting artefacts. Ashton Carter shared with us some precious family heirlooms, Rob Lupine read minds, experimented with pendulums and bent forks, and Steve Murray performed a classic billet reading routine. Perhaps the highlight of the close-up session (out of the many highlights on display) was Marco Pusterla's fantastic story-telling based routine which transported us back to a by-gone age when magic was real and travellers should be wary of the intentions of a pretty girl and her father! The session was brought to a close by David Royle's Drago a character straight out of Carry On Screaming who combines spooky themed magic with a unique sense of humour. Once seen, never forgotten!
The evening gala show was opened by Paul Voodini. Modesty prevents me from waxing too lyrically about this presentation, but I was delighted with how it worked. Following Paul came the inimitable Brian Maxwell whose style of bizarre magick incorporates elements and influences from a by-gone era. One is put in mind of English seaside towns (Brian is a native of Blackpool) and the music hall. For the most part his performance was engaging, humorous and good natured, although it must be said that many in the audience felt uncomfortable with his performance's finale that seemed to be more at home in a 1970's working men's club than at a 2013 magic convention.
The first half of the gala show was brought to a close by Steve Murray whose balloon routine was hypnotic, poignant, and a delight to witness. This routine was certainly one of the highlights of the weekend, and a reminder of how powerful magic can be.
The second half of the show was opened by Dr. Todd Landman who presented several routines from his new show 'Lifting the Veil of Ignorance'. Todd is always a delight to watch. He is engaging, enthusiastic, and assured and the audience were enthralled. Todd was followed by Pete Turner who performed his stunning 'Isabella's Star' routine. This was a powerful presentation that culminated with a member of the audience correctly divining another audience member's star sign. Stunned silence quickly broke into thunderous applause.
Steve Murray then brought the show to an official close with a 'psychic detective' routine, with a member of the audience correctly predicting the time, nature, and circumstances in which a murder took place. There was then a surprise act a reprise of the legendary Voodoo Dance as first enacted at Doomsday 2012! There are not words in the English dictionary to describe the Voodoo Dance. It is genuinely a case of 'you have to be there', but hopefully the Voodoo Dance will now become a staple ingredient of the Doomsday magic!
The gala show was superbly hosted throughout by Martin Hunt who added his own dashes of magic to keep the audience entertained during the swap-overs between acts. Martin was assisted on the technical side by Gifford.
Once more, following the show many of the attendees retired to the bar where beer and pizza was the order of the day.
As is traditional, on the Sunday morning there were several lectures/workshops that were attended by the real hardcore members many of the convention's attendees deciding to leave after breakfast. Those who did leave early missed out on some real gems. Firstly Dr. Todd Landman discussed the workings and thinking behind his new show, and introduced us to a new word 'Epistementalogie'! As always, Todd's laid back and engaging style was a delight to watch, and the room was captivated.
Following Todd, Paul Voodini said some words. Again modesty prevents me from saying too much. However one of the great facets of these Sunday lunchtime workshops is their relaxed and informal nature. The discussion centred around why people believe what they believe, but before too long subjects as diverse as politics, experimental physics, and family history had all been touched upon!
Doomsday 2013 was brought to a formal close by the grandfather of bizarre magick, Roni Schachnaey who shared with us his wonderful routines and thoughts. Roni is a true master of the art, a unique combination of story-teller, mystic, shaman, and magician. He is the very embodiment of bizarre magic, and perhaps 'magic' as a whole. It is always a delight to watch him weave his wonder.
It goes without saying that without Roni and his wife Laraine, Doomsday simply would not happen. Roni and Laraine have been joined in recent years on the administration front by Madelon Hoedt, whose tireless work ensures that Doomsday runs without a hitch. Everyone who attended Doomsday this year owes them a great big THANK YOU!
Plans are already under-way to make Doomsday 2014 even bigger and better. I am assured that some big names have already pledged to appear, and already 60% of tickets have been sold. If you have never attended a Doomsday, you owe it to yourself to ensure you get along to the 2014 instalment! Although touted as a 'bizarre magick convention', every year we see demonstrated in the most practical terms just how wide a net the term 'bizarre' casts. From mentalism to story-telling, from close-up to stage illusion, tarot card reading to comedy, Doomsday incorporates all aspects of the magical arts. There was even a talking skull. With a monkey's body. You don't get that anywhere else.
For enquiries and ticket sales, please contact Roni Shachnaey directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
Here's to next year. I, for one, can't wait!
© Paul Voodini, May 2013