British Magical Championships 2007, Blackpool
24th February 2007
Report and photos by Mandy Davis
year’s X-Factor style competition was particularly long with thirteen entrants
and comments from the judges: Derek Lever, Terry Seabrooke, Hank Moorehouse and
The event opened with the first of the junior acts, High Jinx. Siobhan Jordan, in dressing gown and slippers, wandered among the props on stage and vanished some balls in a box before performing a sub trunk to bring her brother Michael onto the stage. He brought back the vanished balls and the two of them performed a D’Lite routine and a synchronised candle vanish and reappearance. They ended with a packing case illusion and the appearance of a giant wand which they carried offstage. The judges had several comments: a hatred of face microphones which were considered distracting, the opening was too slow as they need to grab the audience’s attention and the giant wand was proclaimed ‘naff’! However they were also told that they had a first class act which could earn them a living right away.
Stuart Brown won the Manipulation category with a fairly classic act. There was a cane to feathered plumes, a cane production from inside a Slinky toy, a silk from a tube and more plumes from the silks before some card manipulations including single cards from a silk. Some giant card manipulations followed as well as an Animated Hanky sequence and a streamers from Dove Pan finale. Here the judges felt that the act should’ve been entered into the general magic category and also that Stuart needed to be relaxed. It was also considered that his music was wrong, especially for the hanky which needed to be more natural. It was also said that it was a shame to close with an automatic trick such as the dovepan and – most importantly – that Stuart should get out of the habit of talking to himself, something many manipulators tend to do! This seemed to be a lot of criticism for an act which won its catergory….
The next act, Atmosfear, opened with a very elderly couple shuffling their way onto the stage to stand at a bus stop. This became very useful for a Yogano stool style levitation performed to a George Formby song and was followed by a sub trunk which revealed Atmosfear without their masks - a young couple who included three costume changes in this sequence. Their next illusion was a full head and body twister to lively modern music. After donning a full length leather coat, a small pyramid illusion took place and a costume change from orange to yellow which matched the outfit the girl was wearing when she finally emerged. The judges felt that this was a good act for lay people but that magically the body twister was not good and having casters on it didn’t help. It was suggested that they should do more as the old couple. Both of the performers looked good and Atmosfear won the Illusion category.
Keelan Leyser and Charlotte Marie won both the General Magic category and the Grand Prix Trophy. Their quick change act was immaculate as they moved and danced expertly throughout the act. Keelan changed from one suit to another, then added colour changes for his tie and gloves before performing a snowstorm effect using rose petals, the first of several quick magic effects. Charlotte Marie was wearing black when she first appeared to dance to Lady in Red – so a change of dress was needed here! A change of tempo and Keelan also changed, this time into silver clothes to perform as a robot. Quicker and quicker the changes came, she into a yellow mini dress and he into a pink waistcoat. More still behind an unfurled poster and through some silver streamers ending, in a David and Dania way, with a final shower of tinsel for the last change. All the judges thought the act was fabulous, they had nothing but praise.
There were three special acts as well as the competition entries. The first of these was Stan Allen performing with his usual great style and comedy timing. He amusingly tore a newspaper, not to restore but to replace under the pet travel box which housed his infamous rabbit puppet, Killer who was as cute as they come and performed a card trick almost unaided!
Prior to the interval the ever funny Tony Stevens presented a giant water casket and informed the audience that he would smash Blaine’s underewater record. To the delight of the audience he immersed himself and was locked inside the casket – to emerge when the curtains were raised for the second half of this three halves competition.
Reflections was the second manipulation act featuring appearing and vanishing candles, silk fountain, card manipulations and glitter balls which got larger and larger until the final, even larger, one preceded the production of an assistant. The judges did not endear themselves to the audience who booed when it was said that the performer needed to lose weight! However it was also considered that the act was original and novel but needed to be longer and have more pace and built in applause cues.
Andrew Green, illusionist, had a very atmospheric act with a lot of excellent dance to enhance the magic. It started with a shadow box to produce a girl. Several appearing and vanishing candles, as well as a Silk to Rose effect, led to an operatic aria as the girl was carried onto a base for the first of the evening’s fan suspensions and a sub trunk finale. This was considered a good act by some of the judges with a good atmosphere. However it appeared to be a long time before anything magical happened and it was suggested that the act should finish with the fan and not the trunk. One judge commented that it was ‘a magic competition, not Come Dancing!’ and felt that there was not enough magic although the audience clearly didn’t agree with this.
Romany’s entrance was embellished by Roy Davenport and John Archer in tuxedos, dancing onto the stage to escort her down some steps. Two spectators were brought on for Miser’s Dream, then a long sash was tied between two stands with giant feather fans. The sash was used for a Cut and Restored effect before Romany launched into her signature treatment of Coins Across using the spectators to support her as she swooned between them in her efforts to make the magic work – and it did! She ended with the production of a bottle of champagne. One of the judges declared Romany to be ‘a lady who can put the capital ‘E’ into Entertainment’ and another felt she would do well in any entertainment competition; it was also felt that the competition had limited her capability but that what she had done had been greatly appreciated.
Alec Powell was awarded both the Comedy prize and the Ken Dodd award. The act lasted twenty=eight minutes which was somewhat overlong. He started by attempting to perform a Zombie routine, only to find that it was his wig which levitated and not the ball under the cloth. He used some good and pertinent lines referring to events at the convention so far and he had an original take on a legs table. His performance included a disabled assistant who had returned for revenge, a Dippy Duck routine and a Hypnotised Rabbit, as well as some levitating shoes, a traffic speed camera and a cannon! One of the judges announced, and the others agreed, that this had been a pile of c**p – but the funniest pile of c**p he’d ever seen.
Joe Ray was the second junior and won his category. He opened with card scaling and multiple coin productions enhanced by the tinkling sounds of a coin ladder. He used large coins too, appearing and vanishing from a large red silk. This was followed by card manipulations and single card productions, all faultlessly executed but with the same expressions throughout. The production of a velvet bag of coins was novel and this in turn was used for a zombie routine, finally being opened to show it was full of coins which were poured out into a casket. When this was reopened all had vanished leaving Joe’s hat which he donned as he recovered the cane he’d been carrying when the act had begun. The judges were divided about the music, some considering it outdated but all agreed that it was a lovely act, very beautiful.
The act to close the second half was Die Zauderer from Germany and were totally original in their presentation. Three knights in full armour entered the stage, two blowing trumpets and the third walking with a zimmer (walking) frame. Two showed large silks but the third had his swallowed by the large drum he was banging. As the act continued the visors on their helmets went up and down unaided in time to the music and their armour creaked as they moved. Everything they did was funny and/or magical and different. A plastic sword became a flute then all the swords are seen to make the sounds of Indian musical instruments. There were some nesting vacuum cleaners too and a vanished silk reappeared to the sound of birds flying overhead and leaving a deposit! There was some fun with more silks, simple direct but very funny and the final moments saw the productions of two umbrellas to fend off a rainstorm – and the appearance of a useless umbrella frame too.
After the interval Mist was the final act in the Illusions category. Their opening was very unusual, a combination of a shadow box and video footage as we saw a guy, Sean Alexander, apparently struggling inside the box and then breaking out, half inside on the screen and half outside emerging in reality. The act continued with a floating lady illusion and then a transparent trunk was uncovered to reveal a girl inside it. The guy leaped onto the top of it for a sub trunk effect but although the girl changed places with him initially, he had vanished and MC Tony Stevens, plus another girl, were sealed inside instead. Finally we saw the vanish of several members of the audience who stood inside a frame on a ramp and curtained from the rest of us although there were other spectators standing around as witnesses. Sadly, due to the lighting and the angle of my seat, I was able to watch the people inside and saw what happened to them! The judges felt that this was raw talent at this stage and were aware of some exposure. It was also considered wrong to leave the witnesses on stage at the end of the act, that they should be sent back to their seats.
David Allen’s comedy act started by producing a duck from a drawing board instead of the expected bowling ball! He proved that he had also invented a ‘duck translator’ which helped the audience to understand what the duck was saying throughout. The duck was also put through a wringer and flattened before being restored. Finally it was placed in a cannon and fired across the stage to land inside a cage. The judges agreed that the act was in its infancy and that the ventriloquist skills needed improving. It was also suggested that the duck itself was too noisy – maybe what it said could be translated rather than vented? It was felt to be a great idea but needed more business and quite a bit of work.
It was almost midnight when the last junior magician got to perform. Josh Miller’s act was lively and his smile was constant as he romped through Linking Rings, Silk to Rose, Dancing Cane, Dream Bags and a Dove Pan streamer finale. The judges agreed that they had seen three excellent junior performers during the evening but that this act’s magical content was not quite right as yet and that the automatic Dove Pan ending shouldn’t be used.
The final act was in the general category but opened with a glass pyramid illusion. A girl was then put into a colourful cube and tubes thrust through it. The box itself opened into a geometric shape and the girl had gone. Some cards were produced for manipulations and another fan levitation was performed to end this act. The judges felt that this had been the best fan illusion of the night and that the act should’ve been in the illusion category. They all loved the act yet it didn’t win a prize this year, maybe because it was in the wrong group.
An unnecessary final guest act took the evening’s entertainment beyond one in the morning. Sos & Victoria Petrosyan performed an unusual shared Dancing Cane routine with the cane going from one performer to another often without apparent preparation. This was an act that needed to have been seen earlier to be appreciated to the full but it was different and brought to an end a very long but professional competition.
Winners (and photo order above)
Junior - Joe Ray
Manipulaton - Stuart Brown
General Magic + Grand Prix Winner - Keelan Leyser
Comedy - Alec Powell
Illusion - Atmosfear
© Mandy Davis, March 2007