Magic can basically be split into two performance scenarios: close-up and stage. Sure, there are variations within these two situations and there’s also parlour magic which is what you’d get if stage and close-up had a baby, but these are the two main categories. They both have their pros and cons and I definitely have a favourite!
Performing stage magic allows you to hold an audience’s attention for a relatively long time and take them on a journey of wonder that builds into a satisfying crescendo. There’s no limit to what props you can use although larger props are preferred unless the magician has access to video projection. But I’ve still seen routines with cards, coins and finger rings performed brilliantly in even the largest venues. There’s also the possibility of help from stage hands, assistants as well as music and lighting to create the perfect look and feel for the performance. The main downside of performing stage magic is the setup. Usually the magician has to arrive a long time before the show to set up props and equipment, which can be quite difficult and time-consuming itself, and then pack it all away again at the end of the show.
Performing close-up magic is completely different. Usually it’s just a matter of approaching small groups of people at an event, either mingling or at tables, and giving them ten minutes of fun and surprises before moving on to the next group. The main advantage close-up magic has is that in the mind of the spectator there’s no possibility of trapdoors, mirrors, forklift trucks, animatronic animals, hidden generators or anything like that being used which always seems like a possibility with stage magic (you wouldn’t believe some of the things I’ve been accused of using). Close- up magic happens right under the audience’s noses or even in their own hands, quite often with objects that have been borrowed from them! There is a long list of downsides though. With moving from group to group you have to win the audience over and get their attention repeatedly, you can only use props that can fit into your pockets or maybe a small case and you are usually competing with the noise of everyone else chatting, waiting staff, terrifying clowns (I’ve done some strange gigs) and other distractions without the aid of a microphone, music or special lighting. Also, you have a lot less control over where people are watching from which can affect what moves and techniques you can get away with.
So with all the advantages of stage-magic and all the disadvantages of close-up magic which do you think I prefer?… That’s right – close-up magic, and it’s not just that ‘m too lazy to turn up to gigs early to set up! I think most magicians who do both close-up and stage performances will actually prefer doing stage shows but close-up magic was my first love and the heart wants what it wants, not to romanticise it too much! I think the appeal for me is that I get to actually meet and have a laugh with everyone on a more personal level rather than just looking out into a sea of anonymous faces. With close-up magic there’s also much more scope for the unexpected to happen so it’s not just doing the same script and the same routines over and over. Don’t get me wrong I do also love performing stage magic, being able to take people on a magical journey that concludes with a really big finish is amazing but I apply what I’ve learned from doing stage shows to my close-up performances. Despite the short time frame and all the obstacles I create the same magic but in an even more impossible and memorable situation.
Which type of magic do you prefer to watch or perform? Can you think of any more advantages or disadvantages? Let me know in the comments. As always please like and share, and remember: there are three types of people in the world – those who can count and those who can’t!