by Kevin Gallagher
Magic competitions are an extremely healthy thing and long may they prosper. These days, standard sponge ball and four Ace routines or colour changing cane and blendo routines are unlikely to pick up any prizes in worthwhile competitions. Something new is required to take the eye of the judges. Many magicians avoid entering competitions stating that they require 'Magic for magicians'. People who use this term in my experience are usually lacking in magical ability and the statement is one of insecurity. There is no such thing! It is simply exceptionally good magic. Magicians and laymen alike will know that they are seeing something special when they see the likes of Gary Kurtz perform.
The most effective method of setting yourself apart is Originality and this generally falls into one of three categories.
Firstly, original presentation. Here, an original character or theme is thought of and standard magical effects are used with unusual props or with a new presentation angle. A great example would be the late Mark Nathan Sicher who made his mark with his Internationally known Dental act which included toothpaste, mouthwash, dental floss, fillings, gas, toothbrushes and so forth. These items would have occurred first, the time being spent on trying to apply them to known magical effects. Secondly, standard magic achieved through completely new methods which deceives even magicians who are familiar with the original. An example would be Guy Hollingworth with his torn and restored card, travellers and twisting the Aces plots all pushed to new heights. Here, complex or new sleight of hand techniques are used to produce a simple effect with minimum apparent handling. Thirdly, the origination of completely new plots. The first person that springs to mind is Paul Harris who, in his occasional creative periods comes up with totally new amazing plots. For this, it is often an idea to simply think of a new effect without any regard for how it might be achieved and later, to try to work out a magical solution.
In the first, the magician's strongest suit will usually be his presentation or acting ability. In the second, he will likely be a superb technician with an impressive armoury of skilful sleights. In the third, he will be capable of creative or lateral thinking.
If you examine the current top magicians the likes of Williamson, Martinez, Kurtz, Topas, Frewin, and analyse their work, you will see that all of them score very highly in one category or another, or in a combination of them. The magic itself need not necessarily be new, the presentation need not necessarily be new and the techniques employed need not necessarily be new but it is originality in one form or other that sets magicians apart.
© Kevin Gallagher June 2003