When I made the decision to turn professional I decided that I needed repertoire of tricks that I could perform for my close-up act, but I realised that I couldn’t just do a pile of card tricks, or do tricks that I liked doing. I would need to shortlist tricks, and then have those practised constantly and work on the patter, knowing that as they got performed to real live paying customers they could be developed. As the tricks developed I could add new ones and take away the lamer ones, but I needed something to start things.
So I looked at what I already performed, what I liked performing, my character and the way my magic had already naturally evolved since I started learning.
I mainly thought of myself as a mentalist, and started to pursue that direction and learnt mentalism tricks and routines (probably due to Derren Brown sparking my latent interest in the art). However, I had come to realise that although it looks cool on TV, no one is going to book a moody arrogant twat who can ‘read your mind’ and wear a black trench-coat at their summer wedding. However, they are more willing to pay to have someone come along and tell them that black ink is heavier than red ink.
Now, personally, I couldn’t stand this type of trick. I’ve got sponge balls, I’ve learnt a sponge ball routine, people actually LIKED my sponge ball routine, but it just didn’t feel comfortable at first. It just didn’t feel magical, I mean, they are just some sponge balls.
What I decided was to hit on a compromise, well, at least for the time being. Basically, I essentially dumbed down my magic for the mainstream audience. One way to describe what I mean is that a band wants to create their own music their own way, but writes pop-songs to get noticed and sell records, once they’ve got a fan base they can then ‘go back to their roots’.
So how do you do this, well, pick about 6 tricks that YOU feel comfortable doing and that others will like and practise them. Also come up with patter and script the trick. Each time you practise you perform like you are performing for an audience so you practise the lines, not just the moves. I personally chose tricks covering many styles of magic, so my style and short-listed tricks could be refined using the Darwinian principle of Survival of the Fittest.
I came up with a set of rules and criteria to help me shortlist my tricks:
- a) Have variety – not just card tricks
b) Can be stored in a jacket pocket for close-up
c) No re-set (or at least very quick)
d) Something that doesn’t need lots of explaining
e) Visual enough to be seen by everyone round a large table
f) Multi-stage (ideally)
g) Involve spectators
As time went on I found my style and dropped the material that didn’t fit the direction I was wanting to go in (such as sponge balls and rope tricks) but it gave me a solid foundation to build on with a repertoire that meant from the moment I turned professional I had good tricks that worked and got positive reactions.
I still perform many of the effects that went into this original set, and have added more that fits this criteria, as well as added some that don’t. These tricks are perhaps more artistic and aimed to illicit a more emotional connection. It is sometimes tricky to walk the balance between being artistic and being a corporate whore.
Having a routine that is new, fresh, touches emotions, takes risks but may occasionally fall flat, not work or not engage everyone fully, versus a solid routine that will even entertain those that have been at the free bar since 3 in the afternoon. These latter routines are normally the ‘workers’, tried and tested a million times by every working magician since the first caveman said “pick a card”.
My aim is to have tricks and effects that fall into both criteria. Some will be biased to the artistic, and some may lean more towards tried and tested worker, and I varying what I perform and how I perform depending on the type of booking and the audience in front of me at the time.
Perhaps that’s not enough?
The point of this chapter is really to say to other magicians that to be inspired they should look beyond the magic books and DVDs, see a bigger picture and not just focus on adding another trick to the repertoire for the sake of it.