Paul Daniels Bravura
4 DVD set
Total running time 10 hours 7 minutes
Essential Magic Collection
Reviewed by Quentin Reynolds
Available from your favourite
“Paul Daniels is the greatest British magician of the last quarter of the 20th Century.” So said John Fisher (TV producer) at the Magic Circle Centenary in 2005.
Many years earlier, at a British Ring convention, as I was heading back to my hotel there was a large group of magicians in the foyer and Ali Bongo was walking up and down in a tizzy saying, “It’s too much, he’s giving away too much.” Wondering what he was talking about, I joined the group, the centre of which was Paul Daniels talking about magic and answering any questions put to him in great detail and with very frank views. No wonder Ali was upset.
If Ali were still with us he would probably spontaneously combust at what is on this DVD set.
It is very rare for a working pro to give away his full act. Many have published the explanation of their tricks but rarely the real secrets, the nitty gritty, the minute details that have come from years of performing experience and make a huge difference to the presentation.
Paul’s early professional years were the workingmen’s clubs in the north of England. If you didn’t get them in the first thirty seconds, you were dead in the water. After achieving great success in the clubs Paul went on to do a number of summer seasons, theatre shows in the West End (the first in 1981 ran for nearly 18 months), fifteen seasons of The Paul Daniels TV show on BBC1 prime time Saturday night viewing. Did I mention the touring show, the thousands of private shows and being a quiz show host? Enough! He’s more than paid his dues.
So what’s in store with BRAVURA?
Disc One: Fortunately for us and future generations the performance of Paul’s act on the first DVD is not flawless. Were it so it would be much more difficult to learn from. Here, Paul is performing for an audience whose first language is not English, so little hiccups arise and you can see how he handles these get keeps the everything flowing. That alone is a masterclass. The show runs for fifty minutes.
Disc Two: Paul goes into great detail explaining all these routines and the psychology behind them and though I have seen him many times and knew ‘basically’ how the tricks were done I was swept away by the psychology and attention to detail. I did not know that an extra ball was used in the Chop Cup routine and you will know what I mean when you watch the explanation. I did not realise the Electric Chairs was being set up at least fifteen minutes before it was presented. The explanations which run for two hours were still somewhat of a revelation.
Technically there is nothing more difficult than a very basic bottom palm or a false transfer. Yet there is so much thought and planning behind every little detail to ensure smooth running of the show and maximum entertainment value without sacrificing the magical effect.
While Paul refers to the Electric Chairs as his signature trick, it’s only fair to point out that all the routines in his act could be signature tricks as the presentations are so closely associated with him.
Now that these routines have been taught and explained in great detail there is nothing to stop you or anyone else going out and doing them but if you do you will be missing the whole point of this four DVD set. It is not mentioned anywhere on the DVDs or the promotional material but there is a theme that permeates right through over and over again. I’ll come back to that point in a minute.
Disc Three covers a number of other stand-up routines that I’ve seen Paul use over the years, particularly in his full evening theatre shows. His six-card repeat is a masterclass in turning a classic card trick into a stage-filling piece of entertainment. Sadly, his brilliant handling of the ’Block Thru Head’ is not included.
You’ll also discover his work on the Classic Force, including the timing and misdirection for the ‘Behind the Back Force’. In the impromptu section you will find the full presentation with gags for ‘The Vanishing Saucer’ which is worth the price of admission. Not to mention a whole range of tips and handlings for tricks you probably already know but don’t perform. Yet!
Disc Four has sections on the business of magic and again is crammed with practical, real world advice. He gives a technique used by Judy Graland to generate energy before going on stage. She must have passed it on to her daughter Liza Minelli because at the 1988 Sinatra/Davis Jr/Minelli concert in Landsdowne Road rugby ground Liza burst onto the stage as though she had been plugged in and that energy flowed right across the pitch up to the back of the stadium. Truly awesome.
Paul has covered a fair portion of this advice in his Masterclasses, of which I have attended a few. Yet there is still quite a bit I hadn’t heard before and again, this DVD alone is worth far more than the cost of the set.
Each DVD contains an interview with Paul, all filled with stories and sound advice. The lovely Debbie McGee (Paul’s wife and assistant) is interviewed on Disc One. Debbie is a trained dancer and her perspective is refreshing, especially on people who put tricks in their show without proper physical rehearsal. It shows.
Luis de Matos has done his usual excellent job with the production and packaging. He’s also the interviewer and has obviously done his homework (with the help, I suspect, of David Britland) with the detailed questions he asks both Paul and Debbie.
The boxed set comes with a code which after you contact the EMC, they give you a link to download some software and get access to some further material. I tried this with a previous boxed set from EMC and haven’t been able to get any of them to play. I found the process complicated, frustrating and unnecessary. There must be easier ways.
These DVDs will bear many repeated viewings and each time you will learn something new. There is no padding here, no fluff, just solid, practical routines and advice from, as John Fisher said, “…the greatest British magician of the last quarter of the 20th Century.”
I mentioned earlier that there is a theme that runs through this DVD set even though it is not mentioned or specifically referred to.
BRAVURA is not about Paul Daniels or his act or the other tricks or magic in general.
It is about The Art of Presenting Yourself To An Audience.
This DVD set is about YOU and how YOU can best present YOURSELF and YOUR magic to YOUR audience.
It is an extraordinarily generous gift from a man at the top of his profession to us and to future generations and in my opinion the most valuable DVD set yet released in magic.
© Quentin Reynolds, June 2014