There are many many magicians performing in the UK and across the world; from big name acts such as Derren Brown and Dynamo performing at huge theatres and arenas to kids’ magicians entertaining at birthday parties; all trying to create magic for their audiences. Charles Reynolds defined magic as “the theatrical art of creating the illusion of impossibility in an entertaining way”. However, it seems that many magicians focus on creating the illusion of impossibility and the entertainment is all but forgotten. Here is what I think makes a great magic show.
From the moment the magician walks on stage he should exude confidence and control. The audience should be reassured that they are in the hands of someone who knows what they are doing and that they can relax and just enjoy the show. When I perform I try to achieve this by channelling my childhood love of Superman! In real life I’m a bit shy and awkward, basically I’m Clark Kent (I even wear glasses and worked as a journalist!) but when I’m on stage the glasses come off, I am in total control of the situation and I demonstrate my super human abilities!
The purpose of entertainment is to distract from the mundane but for a performance to be truly entertaining it has to make you feel something. Think of the last film you really enjoyed, the last great sports event you’ll never forget or the last piece of music you sang along to. I’m pretty sure you weren’t thinking about your bills during that experience and I’m willing to bet you were feeling something: excitement, triumph, joy, sadness, nostalgia, any of a vast range of emotions, but that is what makes it entertaining. It should be the same in magic. The performance shouldn’t just be a string of interesting puzzles, there should be some kind of emotional hook that draws you into the experience, makes you care about what is happening and takes you on an emotional journey.
3.Light and Shade
I often get labelled as a comedy magician because I don’t push big boxes around and I like to have a laugh in my shows. Personally, I focus on amazement rather than amusement but I still think it’s important to have the laughs. In fact, in a serious show (which mine isn’t) a little comedy can be amazingly effective just as in a comedy show a moment of seriousness can be incredibly poignant. The balance between comedy and seriousness, light and shade if you will, is up to the performer but it should never be all shade or all light.
Related to light and shade is the ebb and flow of the show. The show can’t all be fast or slow, high energy or low energy, there must be a mix to hold an audience’s attention. Also, the show shouldn’t just be a magician doing one trick, then another, then another, there should be a reason why the magician goes from one routine to the next. What’s more, it’s important that there is a common theme or thread that runs through the show and holds it together, this is what separates a show from a collection of tricks.
The show should have a beginning, middle and end and should build to an unmistakeable and satisfying climax where the themes and ideas in the show culminate. If the act is a conveyor belt of tricks which just suddenly stops the audience feels cheated. There should be a definite full stop, or preferably an exclamation mark. That’s not to say that having a climax is enough the whole show should be moving towards it, slowly building tension like winding an elastic band until that tension is released in a gratifying way that returns them to real life with a rush.
What do you think makes a great magic show, or even a great entertainer? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments. Also, if you would like to book a magician who has thought deeply about how to create a great show and regularly performs for crowds ranging from the tiny to the huge please get in touch on the contact details below. Thanks for reading.