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55th International Gala Show, Blackpool, 2007

The 55th International Gala Show at the Opera House followed the form of previous years by offering up a spectacular climax to the convention weekend (for those with enough energy left to enjoy it!).

The temperature was set to gas mark 5, the old people next to me smelt of Friday and peanuts. OK let’s do this thing

Playing to a full house the Dave Windle Orchestra set the mood for the evening with a nice bit of pre-show ‘musak’. Emcee Adrian Walsh hosted the evening with a mix of Irish warmth, wit and a plethora of topical gags. Well topical if you believe ‘Life on Mars’ is a documentary.

Sos & Victoria Petrosyan from Germany opened the show using expertly choreographed dance sequences and pyrotechnics as a framework for their spectacular quick change act. There were seven changes in total, two for him, five for her, with a finale that saw Victoria sporting a lavish white evening gown. David and Dania remain as the current king and queen of this art form but Sos and Victoria aren’t far behind. Sometimes the lass in a QC act looks like she’s been on a shoplifting spree with the pinched clothes on underneath her undercrackers. They managed to avoid this faux pas.

Next up were Die Zauderer, a trio of comedians from Germany, who’s visual humour went over well during the Saturday show. Whoever says Germans don’t have a sense of humour obviously hasn’t seen this act. Their highlight was a triple, synchronised, newspaper tear littered with comedy bits. The end result saw the three newspapers restored into one giant newspaper, the size of a roadside poster, with a headline specially prepared for the Blackpool audience.

Jerome Helfenstein from France had a unique act which combined hand shadows with interactive screen technology. We saw everything from birds and spiders to camels and horses interacting with pre-rendered black and white animation on the screen. He also used contact juggling to cast shadows on the screen which worked well.

Shimshi from Las Vegas was next up combining high energy card manipulation with choreographed dance routines. He performed a version of sawing his assistant into three which used a glass box as the casket, removing the midsection for all to see. The audience went wild when Shimshi finished his set, finding a selected card by kicking a pack of cards hanging from a guillotine stand via a backward somersault. The card ended up stuck to his shoe.

Marc Metral from France was one of the highlights of the evening with his unusual vent act. It started with the microphone singing then, after some byplay, Marc brought out his vent Lion. Throughout the act two bird puppets in boxes, positioned at either side of the stage, popped their heads out to add humorous comments and apparent ad-libs which really made the act. At FISM he performed with a real dog as a puppet but I guess because of customs he couldn’t bring his hound

Juliana Chen from Las Vegas brought the first half to a close with a standing ovation. Her act consisted of mask manipulations, dance movements and spectacular card productions.

I joined the ice cream queue early to avoid disappointment but unfortunately I was still disappointed when I got my half melted happy shopper cone and rola cola

Ken Dodd is interesting. I don’t know what he is saying. I know it’s English but I don’t get it. It’s like looking at the green lines screen in the matrix and trying to translate it. I’ve been told its meant to be humorous. My mum told me he didn’t pay his income tax once and that’s why feather dusters are funny is that right?

Anyway he opened the second half and presented various awards to Betty Davenport (looking very glamorous), George Kovari (looking slightly dishevelled) and Tom Owen (looking highly amused following a misunderstanding between Doddy and Kovari). Doddy then talked more before giving his own comedy trophy to Alec Powell. Jim O’Toole, President of the Blackpool Magicians’ Club, also added his gravitas to the awards ceremony. He took a while to walk down from upstairs and Doddy got 10 minutes out of this situational humour.

Black art specialist Omar Pasha from France then presented his act to the Bolero soundtrack. Ropes took on a life of their own, candles took flight and heads were chopped off. The finale of the act saw all three ‘visible’ performers disappear into thin air.

This was followed by expert manipulator Nestor Hato from France with fast and furious card productions, colour changing fans, a costume change and a surprising change of hair colour for the finale (inspired by Britney perhaps?!).

Also from France was Frank Truong who mixed martial arts with illusion. He passed a bed of spikes through a girl, swapped places with another while she was sealed in a casket, spiked another girl, pulled a chain through his own neck, stepped into a box and had his mid-section messed up. He proved the long known rule that doing the same effect over and over doesn’t improve the effect.

Dirk Losander from Germany performed some beautiful magic including his dancing staff, floating bubble zombie routine, dancing handkerchief, and sensational floating table illusion. Having seen Dirk lecture during the convention it was great to see him put theory into practice. He is my 3rd favourite Dirk after Dirk Diggler and Dirk Bennedict.

For the finale Greg Frewin brought his dove act across from Canada. Despite having had only 4 hours to practice with some new doves (his had been banned because of concerns over bird flu) he really showed why he is the World Champion. The doves seemed to materialise from nowhere. Doves were produced from a catapult fired towards the audience, from silks, from eggs that Greg juggled, in fact from just about anywhere and everywhere. Some of the doves flew to the stage floor rather than Greg’s hand or perch (due to them being new to the act!) but this adds to the charm of such an act I think.

His finale was a jaw dropping transformation of a dove cage into a female assistant, all behind a cloth that really didn’t seem big enough to hide a person. It’s hard to describe the visual impact of the production but there was a distinct delay between the production and the shouts, cheers and applause that followed proving that people were dumbfounded.

This year’s show was yet again testament to the organisation of the BMC and the ability of the convention to attract world class acts. Only 51 weeks until the next convention, I can’t wait!