James Freedman Lecture
South London Magic Society
9th January 2024
Reviewed by James Cowan and Simon Rosselli
In this lecture, created for magicians of all abilities, James revealed his handling of some classic effects; and some simple pickpocket techniques. However everything that he explained was included in an effort to highlight the difference between creating magic and just presenting tricks.
The setting was a solitary table with a glass of water, a card box, and a watch. Removing my coat I wondered, "Can anyone lecture for two hours with such a minimal arrangement?" I needn't have worried. James captivated the whole audience within the first few seconds, not by boasting about his achievements but by sharing his genuine love of magic, instantly connecting with us.
Throughout the following two hours, it seemed as though James was sharing his personal journey. That "story" served as the cornerstone for the wealth of magical wisdom he imparted. My notes suggest that: Without an authentic story and character, establishing a powerful connection with the audience may be impossible, which can result in a lack of magic. Unless you are a great actor, it's easier if your narrative and character are based in truth, allowing the audience to connect with that honesty.
James generously shared a selection of card effects, which were truly impressive. Whether a beginner or an expert at the card table, there was something for everyone to perform, with a personal touch. The invisible deck plot took on a new, more cunning form. Additionally, he showcased a large Ring on Rope routine, executed masterfully, but then explained that he has recently shifted to a Ring on String routine with a borrowed ring and very different framing, that aligns better with his pickpocket character.
Now for the part I personally anticipated, there's always a thrill when a performer delves into pickpocketing an ancient art, perhaps even older than the cups and balls. The age-old question arises: which came first, pickpocketing or cups and balls? Explore "The Conjuror by Hieronymus Bosch" and observe the crowd member on the left for insight. After attending a few pickpocketing lectures, I've never witnessed someone move with such speed and grace as James. Unlike other pickpocket magicians, James surprises even those who think they will know what's being taken. I recall a moment when James swiftly removed a fellow magician's wallet, headphones, and keys, leaving him amazed and laughing. James generously shared techniques suitable for all skill levels, providing valuable takeaways for practice at home.
But the real value of this lecture came from his thoughts on the distinction between "Magic" and "Tricks" highlighted in an intriguing "I Only Do One Trick presentation. While I'm tempted to reveal the details, I'll refrain. It's akin to sharing a humorous story; sometimes the essence is lost in translation. To experience the essence of James's lecture, you really have to be there for the magic is in the moment.
In summary, South London Magic Society enthusiastically recommends this new lecture to other magic societies; there are no tricks for sale, but many valuable insights and plenty to take away, practice or think about.
© James Cowan and Simon Rosselli, January 2024