The Northern Magic Circle
Saturday 16th and Sunday 17th May
Reported by Donald Bevan
After a break of several years, during which
events moved mostly north-east, the Northern Magic Circle returned to its
favourite hunting ground of Harrogate, the weekend of May 17-18. This small,
friendly convention, known for many years as Easter Parade, chose the delightful
Harrogate Theatre as the main venue with the White Hart Hotel as H.Q. Principal
organisers Danny Hunt (of illusionists Amethyst) and Sue Jayne (with no doubt
others) pulled stops and courted favours. Attendance could have been better, but
a change of dates may have accounted for many people being unable to be there.
Plans are to return to Harrogate next year, dates being Saturday, Sunday April
Harrogate is a good convention town, having a large selection of shops and eateries, with the theatre situated right in the middle. Early birds on Saturday morning heard special guest (and long-standing member and stage director!) Neil Roberts as I.B.M. British Ring 25 President, and N.M.C. President Dr. Roger Woods deliver welcomes and officially open the convention.
First event was a close-up Gala. James Went of Help! My Supply Teacher is Magic TV fame showed skilled, entertaining card routines, including a neat Travellers sequence, Oil and Water using Kings and Jokers (very effective), and a double selection routine ending with red and black spreads which looked impossible! Graham Shaw of Newcastle dealers Magic Box, showed coin manips. featured ring on lace (very good) and discovered a chosen card in a mobile phone. Finally Wayne Goodman speedily (very!) sped through a series of card routines, including an excellent triple prediction, so fast I could not keep up! Suffice to say Wayne registered strongly.
Having had a surfeit of card magic, I'm not sure the next events were good planning. First a fair number of registrants including several N.M.C. Juniors enjoyed the lecture cum workshop of the aforementioned James Went. This lecture was excellent, running the gamut of card work from shuffles, cuts, peeks, forces, to intriguing and effective routines.
After a break, James was followed by Wayne Goodman, whose lecture also involved clever card routines and other ideas. Wayne is not only clever magically, but is a very likeable guy you instantly warm to and therefore appreciate his magic even more.
With a change to the set programme, Derek Lever stepped in at short notice to produce a fascinating display and explanation of 'Old Tricks'. Around forty props were shown, by an array of manufacturers and dealers, including Max Andrews, Ken Brooke, Davenports, Pavel, even Professor Hoffmann, and more. Magical history in the flesh.
Saturday p.m. brought the annual Children's Showtime, organised by Clive Moore. Clive and other members worked tremendously hard promoting this show by handing out leaflets around the town and contacting local schools. The result was a fair audience of children, mums and dads plus magicians of course. Compèred jointly by clowns Jeani and Clivo, Brian Lead was opener, having fun with comedy props, a string of terrible puns (!) and a cute puppet dog. Dressed in striking Merlin outfit, Doug Gregg had colourful magic involving young volunteers, magic that takes him around the world as a cruise ship entertainer. Andy Greaves had a giant chicken puppet, a real character to which the audience warmed. Andy was a quite skilled ventriloquist too! Finally, magical mayhem from Tony Rix with a hilarious mismade flag routine and magic wands which grew and grew and grew until the last one, wielded with difficulty by the assisting little girl, must have been at least eight feet long! Great entertainment.
Between events there were comfort and lunch breaks, with time to visit the small array of dealers i.e. Magic Box, MA Pro' Magic, and Mission Magic; any more my apologies.
Saturday evening the N.M.C. Juniors took over. First the stage competition, followed by a concerted programme involving all the Junior members. First competitor Ross McLane colour-changed his shirt, did an involved dictionary test (I am never comfortable with youngsters doing mentalism, somehow it does not gel!) and used Brainwave to good effect. Joe Tupling neatly juggled vicious-looking knives, did coloured ball manipulations and created a talking picture, to gain 2nd place from the judges. First place went to the stylish illusion act of Leah Mae and Sarah Jade, with assistance from Danny Hunt. Notable along with smaller items were a very slick version of Robert Harbin's Assistant's Revenge, the two girls speedily switching, and a blade penetration illusion with costume change finish. Cameron Glenwright was the fourth competitor with a mix of coin and silk magic. The acts were introduced by Wayne Goodman.
The concerted show The Best of British followed. Overseered by Su Jayne, the show involved upwards of twenty Junior members of N.M.C. aged between 10 and 15, whose obvious enthusiasm and skills came over well. In sixteen 'sets' we saw such classics as T & R Newspaper, Mismade Flag, Any Drink Called For (very effective), Six Card Repeat (with amusing Harry Potter dressing), Multiplying Bottles and more. Plus illusions: Shadow Cabinet – actually a tent with scouting theme, producing three bods at the close, and full cast closure involving Doctor Who's Tardis as a production cabinet of numerous bodies. This was a fast-moving well constructed performance, which considering participants rehearse in two different locations - Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Ilkley - is quite some achievement. Well done everybody!
Early Sunday morning full members attended the N.M.C. A.G.M. which cannot be reported, other than to say that John Russell was elected President for 2014-15, with Danny Hunt President Elect.
Meanwhile lady registrants (and men if interested!) enjoyed a talk on the art of silk painting. Magicians however settled for another lecture by Derek Lever titled The History of the Magic Dealer. Again this featured a mix of old magic tricks and props. From Joseph Bland in the late 19th and early 20th centuries a coin box, Burning Globe, Vanishing Rice Vase. Props by Harry Leat including a locking, examinable Drawer Box. Book Tests by Corinda and Harry Stanley. Tricks by U.F. Grant, Peter Warlock, Yimka, Albert Chambers (Alchem Rising Cards, marketed by Burtini), Conradi. The incredible engineering and design skills of John Martin. All demonstrated and explained with great enthusiasm by Derek, whose collection of such items is enormous.
This was followed by a ninety-minute auction, proceeds to the Junior Section, by Derek Lever assisted by Mike Shepperd with Anne Lever controlling the coppers. Bids were slow and low, so many bargains (absolute give-aways really) were achieved.
The next lecturer was Mark Shortland. Sadly I had to miss this, but having g seen Mark lecture only days before, if he did his mouse trap card location, Cards Across, Homer picture prediction, and nothing else (unlikely!) those there had a fun time.
The final lecturer was John Archer, who as most will know does not really need to do very much to make people laugh. So an appreciative audience gathered to be entertained and instructed. John did just three items; a double divination card routine involving a simple deck switch, performance and very full explanation of the Just Chance routine with which he successfully fooled Penn and Teller on television, and divination of a spectator's choice from a large selection of celebrity photos. Not a lot of content but packed with magical knowhow and entertainment.
There was a disappointingly thin house for the Gala Show that evening, public support despite advertising being in short supply. Wayne Goodman compèred with speed, hilarity and odd bits of magic. Did an excellent job. Dancers Stephanie Clarke and Leah Mae in scanty dress (made us oldies feel we were in second teenage era!) opened the show.
High Jinx worked speedily through fire eating, a neat illusion involving blades and squashing a girl and a doorway production of a girl which developed into 'Backstage with a Magician', 'exposing' the illusion. That is until the girl re-appeared, plus two more! Derek Lever ambled on and having raided his store cupboard hit the audience with a succession of gags, funny props, Dippy Duck and matter-of-fact patter to register strongly.
Smartly dressed in a suit, Mark Shortland played well with comedy and an excellent three-rope routine. The mood changed to mentalism as a volunteer coloured a picture of Superboy (Superman Junior!), the match revealed as a prediction. Thunderous applause. Then the kicker as Mark divested his suit to reveal him wearing the exact coloured costume matching the spectator's picture!
For the second half following internal presentations of awards, Michael Jordan of High Jinx was discovered backstage with dressing room mirror. From this he removed and juggled with skill and speed light bulbs, still lit and increasing in number. Brilliant!
How do you keep an audience howling with laughter, simply by spending fifteen minutes divining pictures drawn by volunteers and strumming a few chords on a ukulele? The answer is simple. Call yourself John Archer! No more need be said.
Danny Hunt and Stephanie Clarke as Amethyst closed the show, rattling through illusions and smaller magic in a well produced set. A steel plate was bodily penetrated, girls appeared, vanished, were stuck through by vicious spikes; quieter moods featured Pavel's Walking Knot, changed colours of LP records and a Chinese Snowstorm closed the act of these popular illusionists.
The entire weekend was a happy and friendly affair for which a number of people worked long and hard. If you have never tried a Northern Magic Circle event, give it a go next year.
© Donald Bevan, May 2014.