A visit to Showzam
Words and Pictures by Geoffrey Newton
SHOWZAM is Blackpool’s February Festival, now in its 5th year and presenting 10 days of top entertainment at various venues throughout the town. I caught up with it on Wednesday 15th February 2012 so could only see a snippet due to time constraints and limited to a section of the Winter Gardens known as Olympia.
On entering this vast area the first person to catch my eye was Jon Marshall and his recreations of Jon Gresham’s seafront and fairground sideshows of the 1950’s. It was a real experience to see these in action and the effect they had on the public. This year he brought The Headless Lady and The Monster Show.
Jon’s latest recreation was Dr. Phantasma’s Ten in One Show. ) To lure the audiences in Jon set up ‘pitching’ on a stage in front of the tent telling what was about to happen. Once inside, to the accompaniment of a lady accordionist various stages round the tent were illuminated as individual performers presented their speciality. There was fire eating, sword swallowing (two at a time!) the rubber man, not forgetting a live tarantula walking over a scantily clad young lady!
Not heard enough yet? Then read on. The rubber man passed his whole body through an orifice only the size of an unstrung tennis racquet and then did it again through a smaller one. Dr. Diabalo walked on a bed of nails, there was a girl without a middle and the boxed Miss Elastina had more blades pushed through her than I have ever seen in an illusion before. There were a couple of spoof ones as well just for good measure. First, the Man Eating Fish. It’s all in the wording here and reminded me of Ali Bongo’s depiction of a Man Eating Tiger at Ballyhoo Corner seen on one of the Paul Daniels TV shows. There was also a girl with a six foot bat – clearly loaned by a giant cricketer!
My next visit was to Magique Fantastique presented by ‘Romany Diva of Magic’. Now many of you will know Romany for her burlesque act with the birdcages or recent appearance on the Penn and Teller show. This was completely different. Each performance is with an audience of only 21 in very intimate surroundings as the mystery unfolds about how the character lost her legs and now sits for ever as a torso on a mahogany table. The modus operandi of achieving this is of course not new but what I can only describe as a close up magic show with larger props so all could see, had very interesting story lines and packed with interest. I feel this act will go far and Romany’s versatility gives her appeal to a much wider clientele.
Throughout the day The Insect Circus had many different activities on their centre stage location and I spotted Paul Debek presenting a snippet of his excellent magic from the Star of Wonder show in which he was featuring at The Grand theatre in Blackpool.
Following his success last year Andrew Van Buren returned with a new production Temple of Illusions with more than ever packed into a 60 minute show. He is a very talented performer both with magical and circus skills and clearly now at the top of his profession. It really was fast moving and faultless. If you missed it he is appearing at Great Yarmouth on the after banquet show during the British Ring Convention (26th – 30th September) and there will also be tribute to the Van Buren family as a special feature on the Friday afternoon.
There were slot machines taking the old pennies, pinball collections and a fortune teller.
It was well worth a visit and good to see such a variety of live entertainment.
© Geoffrey Newton, February 2012