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South Tyneside International Magic Festival 2010 Review – Norn Bichan

South Tyneside International Magic Festival 2010, was again a very well organised, intelligently structured and a hugely enjoyable event.

The festival extends beyond the convention to shows in schools, care homes and a Family Extravaganza. Lay audiences are a welcome, and necessary, part of the Gala Shows and the children’s show.

The Convention side of the South Tyneside International Magic Festival opened on the Friday morning with Tommy the Trumpeter welcoming 200 children to the Custom House Theatre in South Shields to see the Children’s Magic Show of American Tim Sonefelt. Tim ran through a range of colourful and entertaining effects. Some were modifications of classic effects, with silks based effects and printing being a feature. My favourite was a voice-over soundtrack story involving a Princess, a necklace and a “magic bag”. Tim went on to lecture about his show and had all the routines professionally package for sale.

The Simon Drake interview was in the main theatre with Simon appearing through the wonders of the internet. Martin Duffy, one of the main convention organisers, hosted a very well prepared and informative interview that included clips from the Secret Cabaret show. The talk ranged across a wide range of topics; performance not tricks, the late Pat Page, working with TV companies and Simon’s “House of Magic” theatre/event in London. Despite a couple of technical hitches this was a fascinating discussion.

Roni Shachnaey gave a lecture on effects he uses in his field of Storytelling/Séance/Bizarre magic, these included a book/magazine test, a curious burn mark appearing on a card, chalk marks appearing on an isolated card and his Graffiti ‘Russian Roulette’ effect using spray cans.

American mentalist Joshua Quinn is a very clever and deep thinker, he had some very good effects including his book test, his ‘chunnelling’ techniques, an impromptu book test plus effect, even a cool card colour change. He also had a mental card selection routine, showed his Quizzle cards and showed some work on the Prevaricator effect of Patrick G Redford the US mentalist who lectured and performed at South Shields last year. Mentalism performer Colin MacLeod assisted by demonstrating his performance of this effect.

The Gala Show on the Friday night had Richard McDougal, Mathew Dowden, Lennart Green (TV projection), Wayne Dobson, Brad Manuel (MC) and Jeton, the Gentleman juggler closing the show. A grand Gala show.

The trend of closing a magic show with a juggler that many remarked on at the International Magic Convention in London carried on at both Gala nights in South Shields. I know Geoffrey Durham has written that his closing effects were normally ‘juggling’ feats that the audience could easily appreciate and immediately applaud, rather than sit back and think or discuss with their neighbour ‘how was that done’.

DSC08832.JPGLennart Green’s lecture on the Saturday started with some great ‘warm up’ effects and gags that he uses to get his audience in the right mood. He went on to show his Index Intuition OOTW effect, the Terrorist card control and revelations, a version of his Rainman ‘shuffleboard’ style effect. He also discussed a card effect utilising dice, periodicity in repeated shuffling methods, the Rosetta shuffle, restoring shuffled decks, false shuffles, lapping and a poker effect.

The Wayne Dobson lecture was hosted by Michael J. Fitch who had prepared a selection of Wayne’s TV appearances over the years and was fascinating view into career development and video clips were interspersed with great stories and jokes from Wayne. In addition to all this the 5 Card repeat, Nailed and a Do as I Do effect were revealed. There were some stories about Freddie Starr and again Pat Page was discussed, and missed.

The Close up Session:

Joshua Quinn performed a 10 Card Poker deal/influence routine, his Horoscope reading effect (rated 100%), a business card was torn to produce an impossible object. At the end of the show Joshua was presented with a jar of Damson Jam.

Brad Manuel was up to his normal comedy high jinks – borrowing a £20 note changing it twice, producing a card from show, and bottle, almost certainly producing a shot or two of juice from his shoe, challenging the spectator to a dice-stacking gamble, eventually discovering the signed note in a cigarette lighter and continued with some great non-returning of a £5 note work.

Lennart Green did his shells routine and then a mystifying all reds, all blacks, all blue backs all red backs all face cards, all…. you get the picture… I put my pen down and enjoyed the show.

The Voice Workshop with Pete Ross was well attended with the second group being more intimate. Various warm-up and voice development and protection exercises were performed and lots of guidance given on do’s and don’ts. A well received and popular event.

DSC08858 (2).jpgThe Saturday Gala Show, MC’d by the great John Archer, opened with Shahid Malik and Lisa performing a plethora of rapid colourful visual effects before their fantastic Cardboard box illusion and slick CubeZag. What an opening! Joshua Quinn narrowed the audience down to a single lady and correctly predicted an only thought of word. He followed with is full view prediction invisible deck style routine and finished with a magic square with no writing involved. Again Jeton and his assistant closed the show to great applause (if a magician makes a minor mistake in his act the whole thing is blown, if a juggler does and then succeeds he gets more applause!) a great warm act.

On Sunday the lectures continued with Brad Manuel, which was well attended and he did a brisk trade at the end, an indication of the respect for his performance and effects. He emphasized his performance style was what made his act fun, effects were secondary, he maintained he only used two card sleights but that was irrelevant to the entertainment. He is another magician who started in isolation from other magicians and so had developed his own style and methods. He showed a pen gag, a gag ring and his trick hat and change bag. To follow were his card ‘force’, credit card gag, bottle from shoe method and his note to lighter. More quick visual gags followed and then his great dice stacking routine. Packing even more in he showed his addition to the coin in bottle, his Colour Blind effect, his ring flight, a coin and washer effect and finally his very funny Bucket Head effect.

Other than the Specialist Workshop events that are a characteristic of the last afternoon of the South Tyneside International Magic Convention the weekend ended with Richard McDougal’s lecture that was billed as being controversial.

Richard statement that the state of magic performance is woeful, and that it was on the point of being totally dismissed by audiences, may have been to provoke reaction but Mr. McDougal doesn’t strike me as the type of man that doesn’t say what he means. He challenged the audience to remember a magical performance that truly affected them, made the hairs on the back of neck stand up, he himself could only name a handful, all by the greatest names of magic. He then noted how these moments are common in theatre, prepared/managed events and in sporting events.

He invoked Alan Alan’s definition, “Magic is Theatre, Theatre is Magic”.

The threads of Belief, Suspension of Disbelief, respect of magical effects/affects, the elements of Story and Drama – story construction – character, situation, conflict – anticipation, intent, action, tension, Stillness, redemption and resolution, were mentioned as necessary to make the magic matter. Sausages on the buffet should not be more interesting!

It almost makes me want to step away from the computer, go to the library and get some books on theatre and drama (the children’s section is normally good) and then employ the local drama coach to look over my routines.

What do I take from the weekend? Memories of a great event, a smorgasbord of Lennart Green effects, an image of Damson Jam, “make it more interesting than sausages”, all with another shot glass of juice from a shoe. John Archer is a great performer, Shahid Malik is a very smooth and slick magician and Lisa can dematerialise.

Plus points – great organisation, great performers and lectures, intelligent and thought provoking events.

Photos by Kevin Creaghan

We asked Norn Bichan who wrote this review for a bio and he gave us this:

Norn is a fat, baldy, bearded, middle aged man, with poor social skills and personal hygiene problems… he thus blends invisibly into a magic convention. His self delusional pretentions, see him aspire to great magic and finesse with cards and coins, while actually in public twisting balloon animals and occasionally placing a pen behind his ear. Magic is his passion… unfortunately, his only one.

But in all seriousness please take just a little time to understand that stigma and fear of mental health is a problem that stops people getting help in the early stages when it can be most effectively treated. MIND provides help and information on many aspects of mental health – http://www.mind.org.uk/help/advice_lines