In October of 2017 I went to the Shanghai International Magic Convention just to watch and discuss magic with other magicians. I saw so many great performances, there was the reknowned mentalist Banachek, the writer of the Psychological Subtleties book series and many others about mentalism. One illusion of his that really stood out was him wrapping his head with cloth tape and aluminium foil as the most certainly opaque blindfold imaginable. He a then had audience members bring out random objects from their pockets and he was able to very accurately describe them. He also did a terrifying russian roulette routine where he made a prediction before randomly giving spectators envelops, some with knives in them and some without. His correctly guessed beforhand who would have the blades and who wouldn't. Perhaps the most inexplicable act was from a Dutch performer called Niek Takens, who won the stage gala competition. His card productions were incredibly clean, his fingers were wide open and his sleeves rolled up. I actually don't have a clue how he did it. Another act that really caught my attention, partly because it was really clean, but also very unusual, was this Egyptian themed act from Italy. He openly produced these huge lamps and paper fans from his bare hands with no cover. There was also a surprisingly underwhelming floating piano performance where the secret what somewhat too obvious. The whole convention was full of creativity ad originality, I saw act involving magic with flowers, paper planes, dice, paint brushes and leaves. An extremely spectacular show was this act done in front of a translucent sheet onto which computer generated images were projected. This was intended to augment some sleight of hand dove magic tricks. I wasn't sure if it was meant to be magical or just visually extravagant.
You may may struggle to grasp how messy I am without experiencing my filth first hand. My show will leave your floor covered in loose salt, milk and water drips, cookie crumbs and wrappers and chewed up or torn pieces of playing cards or paper, also popped balloons. My act is heavily inspired by, but nowhere near as good as, the Great Rocco, who famously scatters the stage with his magical detritus. He makes heaps of food appear like pretzels, grapes, wine, peanuts and chocolate and just tosses them on the floor. My favourite trick of his is his milk to ice cream illusion when he hides an icecream up his sleeve, not coated or covered in anything to protect the lining of his jacket. He is a true artist and although that sounds like a joke, I don't mean it to be. His act is actually one of the most entertaining performances I've seen. I saw a lecture of his once, he had these huge piles of props on tables. These objects were not organised in any way, just loosely tossed in a heap. He opened by saying "I know this looks like a huge pile of junk, but these are actually piles of miracles". His talk seemed to have no structure, he just rifled through these mounds randomly pulling things out and doing tricks with them. It was awesome. You can do magic with anything, I don't understand why magicians restrict themselves so much to just using coins and playing cards.
I've been building props in my workshop quite often recently. I have no woodworking training and but am teaching myself slowly. I've also been creating some objects with acrylic (which is brittle and therefore quite frustrating to cut or drill holes through). I'm not very precise with my measurements. So far, my creations have so far looked a bit wonky but they are functional and don't look terrible. Nothing has spontaneously broken or fallen apart during a performance. I've made three special wooden tables that look deceptively thin. Today I constructed a heptagonal sided prism box with a surprisingly large secret compartment that fills two thirds of the volume, yet it still looks completely empty. Construction was almost finished when I realised I had forgotten to give it a lid, meaning that people would need to just taky word that things were appearing or vanishing inside. I created a gimmicked jug for making liquids appear or disappear. I can now transform milk into a sock and make a deodorant can appear in my sock. I've created a method for making an empty box of cookies fill up, although I've realised this trick can be very risky with children and can easily lead to chaos. I made a special set of boxes that all fit inside of each other in which an object borrowed from a spectator might appear inside, I was thinking of stealing someone's wallet and then having it turn up inside these containers.
I recently was lucky enough to perform at the Coffs Harbour Buskers Festival and it was probably the furthest I have needed to travel to perform. The event was quite spread out, I had to travel 2 hours west of Coffs to Armidale and an hour south to Macksville to do shows. I met some interesting people, performers who venture far and wide to entertain audiences around the World. There was an duo circus act called the Flying Dutchmen, although really one of them was French Canadian. They juggled an absurd number of balls and somehow managed to balance two spinning basketballs on top of each other among other juggling and uni-cycling stunts that were stressful just to watch. There was another Juggler called Kit Kaboodle who was also amazingly dexterous and coordinated. He also made huge elaborate balloon sculptures. One very impressive stunt of his was balancing two golf clubs with a golf ball between them on his nose, one club vertical on the tip of his nose, the ball above this and the other club horizontal on top in a T shape like a seesaw. Kaboodle doesn't seem to obey the laws of physics. Sports Suzie also had a great sports themed circus show that was very impressive and funny. For her finale she rode a 3 meter unicycle while skipping with a rope, bouncing the cycle like pogo stick. A clown called called Yoshinori from Japan did a hilarious silent comedy act with circus stunts. It used to be my goal, when I was a teenager, to have a silent comedy show, a very old art-form which has sadly grown quite uncommon since the days of silent film. I just found it much more difficult to make people laugh if I'm not verbally communicating with them. It is a rare talent to be able to create a comedy show that appeals across many cultures and is not restricted by language barriers. When I was younger I wanted to tour the world going to these sorts of festivals but now I feel I would get too lonely and I need to buy too many props and books for my show which would be very impractical to travel with unless I had some sort of entourage of assistants.
At Coffs, I heard stories from the other performers about their travels, The Flying Dutchmen have done shows in a huge number of countries, they went to about 8 states in Europe last year and were going to Japan soon after the buskers festival. They must have such exciting lives, I just don't think it would suite me, I'm not that bold and adventurous.
The people doing all the behind these scenes work for the Coffs Buskers festival are also very switched on, John Logan, the main organiser, seems to have quite a good reputation among the buskers I have spoken to about this festival. The audiences he was able to draw for us were large and very appreciative. Despite being called a buskers festival, I didn't really need to draw a crowd, there was always one waiting. My one complaint was that it was a bit of a pain travelling two hours to Armidale just to do one half hour show, but that's partly just because I get bad motion sickness when I'm a passenger in a car, although a nice man called Wayne generously drove us there in a bus. I felt very well taken care of during my trip at Coffs, the Pier Hotel provided comfortable accommodation to all the performers in exchange for a kind of sponsorship and the large numbers of customers that would be drawn to see the shows at their venue.
All in all, a pretty good week. If you are ever around the North Coast of New South Wales in early October, you should definitely go.
Julian is a magician in Sydney helping you make the most of your special events. He has performed many hundreds of magic shows over the last 11 years. Call him on 0437896344 or email email@example.com