Thursday, 18 September 2014


It is important in any type of performance, to have control of the audience.

My friend did a show he spent a long time writing, but he did not get any applause. It was not because of the quality of the show but he did not let them know when it was right to do so.

This is like the rules of the show its self. Is it ok to shout stuff to the performer in his show? Is there only one part of the show where this is allowed? Is it rude to ask the magician of he can check the card one more time before we carry on?

In a performance you need to let people know what they expect from you. If they are to sit back and relax or shout up to the stage and get involved. Both are hard to do. I want some banter from my audience, so I have to create a setting, by how the stage is dressed, how I am dressed, the way I speak, why I behave and what I do and how to deal with the audience. It can be hard to get people sitting in their chairs to speak without picking on one of them.

The first set is to think how you want your audience to feel, have indicators to let them know when they can clap without drowning you out with sound when you are about to speak, when to ask questions and when they need to be silent and listen. Now I'm not saying you force them but you let them know the rules of engagement. It is always up to them if they clap in the end of the day, you can pause for it but do not expect it.

Once you know how you what type of experience they are going to have at a certain part of the show and you allow for them to act in that way you need to then decide why they would. Even if you create the space and allow them to take part in your show doesn't mean they will. For example, why should they clap?

Should they do it after every song or act of a play? What if you as a magician have 3 different tricks that flow nicely into each other that applause breaks would get in the way? What is the value of your claps? For them to just clap after every trick because habit, when the whole point is to show the performer what was enjoyed and what wasn't. So do you allow space for them to clap to show what was liked? Do you get them to clap easily to set the bar and then it gives them something to compare to? So the volume and length more greatly gives you an idea of enjoyment? Are there sometimes people might have enjoyed something and not feel like there is a time to clap? I could go on but hopefully you get the point.

I like to think every part of your show should be planned for the most effect. Now we are human and we can not be perfect but that’s the great thing, we strive to be and push ourselves further.

This is what I learned and worked with being on stage. Before that in the life of a vagabond who performs in the street without the class of a stage behind you. What we called crowd control, (not saying we made up the term just that is what we called it).

It is the thing that stops an audience member looking at stuff you do not want them to, to help them to trust you enough not to investigate too much. Giving them enough time to be sure just before you start your slights.

Now imagine I get someone to choose a card and I switch it with a random one. Let say they pick eight of clubs. Now I hand them the random card. This is the most dangerous part of magic. All it takes it them to look. Turn the card over. Now I wish I could type down what I do to make sure that didn't happen, I learned by trial and error and it is done intuitively, all I can do is tell you a line that I might use which is part of the process "could you hold that for me a sec, I will tell you what to do with it in a second".

I do the process they do not look at the random card but they put it into the deck. I then summon their card to the top by willing the world to take my design by waving my hand above the deck.
Now if they looked without the hand waving the trick wouldn’t work. (I do not really wave my hands around doing magic, I prefer drawing mental runes).  The whole point of doing magic is looking like you are not doing sleight of hand, (being more of a gambler or a slight of hand expert is a bit different). So to the people watching you have not done anything when I which the eight of club for the random card. They still have their card. Now if I say "hocus pocus" (again not something I would really do) then they know there has been a change. I have now done something. You have to remember you know what will happen next. They do not (well unless you told them). They do not know if you will change the card, make it melt in their hands or turn it into a bird.

If I handed them the random card for them to turn it around too soon, they will sit there getting confused as I just said it was the eight of clubs. They will think me a liar, or I messed up or that they have ruined the trick somehow. Now if they do not turn it over and I ask them what card it is and they state the eight of clubs. I ask them how sure they are. They will then hopefully think, "Wait, has he done something?" Or even better "yes it is the eight, I'm 100% sure and would bet everything on it". Then I would ask them to turn it over, this I different than them turning it over. Why? Because this is what I wanted to happen, I asked for it to be turned. What ever happened is my doing. By asking if they are sure hints that something has happened to the card which hopefully in their head must be impossible. Whatever happens is not a mistake, not them foiling my trick but magic. And when they see their card stuck to the wall on the other side of the room, well that is just funny.

Telling them that line lets them know kinda what they are doing with the card. A lot of people look at the card as they do not know what they are meant to do with it yet. Saying that line give you enough time for them to know what they are meant to do. They have the important job of looking after the card. I am not being patronising when I say that. It is important, to me, maybe not to them. By saying I will tell you what to do in a sec, also tell them not to do anything with the card until I tell them too without saying "hold the card but don’t look" because people do not like to be told what they can’t do, well some people and I am one of them. I do not mind following the rules, I have a choice to follow them or not when I am told them and I know what punishments when I don’t. Something in me is a free spirt that can not be controlled or something, something in me doesn't like being told I do not have a choice. Not that I would go against the person's request.

In magic, the thing you do not what them to do is normally the thing they want to do. As people kinda want to know what deep laws you bend when you do magic (or which sleight of hand of used), or figure it out and feel smart, because if you do figure it out you are smart or have some strange talent. Like two people I have met in my travels (or you have read a few magic books so you could not be fooled).

  • I would say the first lesson is not to tense up when the danger could, people may not pick up on it consciously but they will subconsciously.
  • Get them to forget about the danger but do it in a natural way. I will get them to review where they feel the cards are first get them to talk to me while the cards are safe in their hands. Get them to state a number they would be willing to bet if real money was involved that it is the card they think it is. Then they don’t think about the card being in their hand so much. Yes they are still thinking about the card but not so much it is in their hand.
  • Set up a situation they do not want to mess with the danger, in the above example they will not look at the card until they know how much pretend money they want to bet on the card in their hand. If you set up the trick as a guessing game they will not want to fail by looking before guessing. Still do not rely on this as after they have guess they can just then turn over and you might not be ready for them to turn over
  • Sometimes for pacing it’s good to have them not to meddle for them. Just saying the line I am going to make the two card switch, then for them to turn the cards over stops potential confusion. They might feel they have jumbled up the card and ruined your trick if they look too soon, they might feel you mixed them by accident. In magic you need to decided when it is good for you to know what will happen next and when not to.

Freedom Forged

We learned a few new tricks, did not practise them enough and went to the street sheepishly.

We though we practiced enough, we had no teacher but ourselves and videos that shows us how to manipulate the deep laws of the metaverse through the talent of slights. We did it to the point where we felt we would not fail.

And I Failed. For the first few times. Nerves got the better of me. My partner in crime save us. He did fine.

We wandered the streets. Just hanging out really, going to places where we thought that people might want to see something cool (if we did not mess up). We wandered the bullring a lot at the time. We must of impressed people though, being as bad as we was. We was full of dreams and potential, we got told we should be on TV. We knew we was not ready. I kind of knew who I wanted to be and what I wanted to do as a card wielder, just did not have the wisdom to put it in words let alone go out and do it.

We fucked about. Magic was not the point. We where enjoying the freedom of knowing school is finally over after 12 years. Enjoying the freedom before college started. Spend at least 40 minutes looking at the donuts at Krispe Kream being made once. We really spent our days unplanned. We spent ages watching each part of the process, we did not even buy one. We never did until a few years later. The time did not feel right.

There is a point that I remember clearly, a defining point in my path of cards. I got a massive crowd. 30 to 40 people all saw the 16 year old with some card getting ready to do something strange. The things we learn we learned at the time relied on angles. It was only magic if you stood in a certain place, so instead of inviting failure I asked my right hand man to take half. Even half was a struggle. A performer must control his crowd, and when a miracle can fall apart just by someone turning a card around in their hand before I have a few seconds to speak. Well timing in performance is important too.

When you give them the ace of hearts and they take the card and turn it around to be the spades then they will just go "huh? That wasn’t what you gave me" when you have a few seconds to ask them what card they have and let them in their mind be sure that it is the hearts then when they turn it around it is amazing.

We was not really ready for such a big crowd, but it did it and it was good. The security who was watching too after our show told us we could not do magic in the shopping centre anymore as crowds block the way of people going passed, we never listen. Twice we have been told we would be banned for life for performing there. I haven't performed there in quite a few years.

It became a year of freedom, 2006. We have just left school, the holiday before college. I spend days not going home, went to London for the first time. Nearly every day out into the street. Away from home and the problems, away from people are drama. Life was simple and one of the best times I have had.

Our freedom was forged with a mindset.

If we wasn't out wandering we was studying. Our magic HQ was at Jin's sister's flat, up above an Indian restaurant. Jin would buy the eldritch knowledge and gift it to me as well. He would meet up with me as show me something new. We would then work on it to make it work for us, not that we knew how to do that. I would hang out with Jin, his sister and her boyfriend eating instant noodles with chopsticks. The conversation would trail off into Cantonese while talking to me without them noticing. They would turn around and speak to me and I would have to remind them which tongue they were using.

The days where long, but it still felt too short.
 Our freedom forged, it just needed to be wielded