There are various types of magic performance: close-up, stage, comedy, illusions, mentalism, kids’ shows…. But if a magician is to excel should they specialise in just one type of performance?
Most of the different magic disciplines make use of a similar set of skills such as misdirection, sleight of hand and general showmanship but they are applied differently. For example, misdirecting a handful of people during a close-up routine is very different to misdirecting a thousand people during a stage routine. With this in mind it is easy to see why some people believe you should focus on one performance type; there’s only so much time you can spend practicing and rehearsing so you should just concentrate on being the best you can be in one performance situation, right? After wrestling with this idea for a while I’ve decided that I disagree.
Although the use of magic skills is different in different situations I believe that what you learn in one area can be applied to other areas. I started my life in performance warming up the crowd for shows in a huge arena for up to 3,000 people (talk about being thrown in at the deep end!) and I quite often did it with no magic tricks and in fact no props at all. I quickly learned how to hold their attention and get every single person involved and having a great time. I took this same approach and applied it to my close-up magic – not on purpose, as at that point in my career I wasn’t really thinking much about what I did, it just happened! I used to hammer every table and get them all laughing and clapping really loudly. My style has evolved since then and, even though I still make sure that when I finish every group or table there is loud and sincere appreciation, I’m as interested in inspiring silent awe as I am in provoking raucous applause which brings me to my next point.
When I started doing close-up magic on a regular basis I soon learned that there was a whole gamut of emotions which could be evoked from my audience, and while my natural performance style is very light-hearted and fun, I could move beyond laughter and bring genuine wonder and mystery into people’s lives. I took this approach of working quiet moments of intimacy into a fun close-up performance and tried to do it on a large scale in my stage shows. I thought I’d never love a noise as much as I love that mellifluous mix of laughter, cheers and applause but absolute silence from an audience that is completely engrossed is now my favourite sound in the world! Maybe I would have still learned how to do this without doing close-up magic but I feel that both different performance situations feed each other: I’ve got better at creating intimate moments on stage because of my experience doing close-up and my close-up quiet moments have got more dramatic because of my experience on stage.
To be honest I could probably come up with lots of examples of how my different experiences as a performer have helped my other types of performances: my early experiences doing family shows has helped me deal with kids on stage and close-up, my on-stage mentalism acts have helped transform every-day close-up tricks into brain-boggling mind tricks, my experience doing big outdoor arenas has helped me get and keep people’s attention during my street shows…. My point isn’t that magicians need to do all different types of magic to be good or even great. There are plenty of brilliant magicians who just do close-up or just do kids’ shows but to be great a magician doesn’t have to specialise. If you are a magician who, like me, likes to perform all kinds of magic in all kinds of situations, as long as you practice and rehearse well I don’t think you should worry about your magic talents being spread too thinly. Instead embrace the different situations you find yourself in and think about what you can learn from them. Similarly, if you are looking to book a magician don’t feel that you should necessarily book someone who only does the type of magic you are looking for. Look at their promo video and their reviews and let that do the talking.
If you can think of other ways different magic disciplines can compliment each other or if you think a magician should definitely specialise please let me know your thoughts in the comments. As always please feel free to like and share and remember, whatever you do always give 100%… unless you’re donating blood!