Kendall - Do you know about Gravity?
March 1973, and a magician called Poz asks a young boy whether it is his
birthday. The boy nods. Poz asks him what is behind his ear. The boy looks
puzzled, not quite knowing where this is going. With a smile the magician
reaches behind the boy's ear and comes out with an egg. The young boy,
just five years old, looks up in amazement. The seed had been planted.
Ian Kendall has come a long way since his fifth birthday. Aside from
writing about himself in the third person, he has followed a less than
common career path, and certainly not the one suggested by the Careers
Advisor at school. The years as a pizza chef, parachute packer or flight
instructor are largely irrelevant here, so we'll concentrate on the magic
side of things.
After being inspired by Poz thirty odd years ago, the young and
inquisitive Ian learned what he described as 'Boy's Own Magic' - the type
of self working tricks that appears in the comic annuals in the seventies.
Around the age of 17 he discovered Sleight of Hand hiding behind a small
rocky outcrop and spent then next decade or so obsessively learning and
practicing everything he could find. (Obsession is a character trait/flaw
- delete as applicable - which crops up a lot when discussing Ian. And not
always in a good way). Thinking nothing of spending six or seven hours at
a stretch working on something that would ultimately prove to be perfectly
useless - it's the journey not the arrival that's important, dammit - Ian
looked up one day to find that he had dropped out of University, joined
and been thrown out of two magic circles, qualified as a commercial pilot
just as all the airlines were going bust and spent six mind numbing months
as an accounts clerk for a Crystal factory. But, he could muscle pass a
coin over two feet vertically, so that was okay.
During this period, best described as the lowest, blackest, loneliest,
saddest, darkest most depressingly desperate low part of that week
salvation came when a friend asked him to fill in for a magician who
couldn't make the Graduation Ball that year. Deep joy! And so it began.
Armed with a handful of rubber bands and a burning desire to ask the world
about Gravity Ian started his magical journey to the worst cliché so far.
It's all the usual stuff, working in restaurants where he honed (honed? -
HA! I've seen it!) his close up set, four years as a street performer
where he honed (not again) what would become his cabaret set, gigs here
there and everywhere and generally living the life.
major advantage of living in Edinburgh (aside from the near permanent
chill) is the Fringe. Ian loved the Fringe, but to be honest, it's all a
bit one sided and unrequited. It was here he started out on the Streets
doing shows on the Mound at day, and slogging round the numerous cabaret
bars that used to exist at night. The next year he put on his first
'indoor' show - called How to Do Stuff. After another year on the
street and the cabaret spots he teamed up with comedian Mitch Benn. As
part of the birth of the Edinburgh Comedy Scene (they ran the Ribtickler
comedy club in the city) they put on two well received shows until Mitch
took his genius to London and Ian stayed in Edinburgh with his muscle pass
and the life of conspicuous anonymity.
The last few years have seen Ian continue on the Fringe, racking up
thirteen years continuous entry, but parenthood has curtailed his
performing somewhat, moving from full time to part time status (and hating
every minute of it). Lately he has been taking his twenty something years
of teaching experience and produced a series of instructional CDs called,
ironically, How to Do Stuff. Luckily people seem to like them,
which not only makes it all worthwhile, but gives Ian a warm, pink fluffy
feeling as well. He has acted as a 'facilitator' for magicians who wanted
to be in the Fringe but didn't know how to go about it, offering the
benefit of his experience so they won't make the same mistakes. He gets a
smug feeling when he realises that those who listened to him had
successful shows, and the ones that ignored him sank. But that's a nasty
thought, so we'll gloss over that bit.
It has to be the Coin falling up. I hesitate to call it my signature trick
because it's not strictly mine, but it's the thing I'm best known for. I
spent so long learning it I feel I have to show the world (I'm making
pretty good progress on that part) although I don't have as much height as
I used to. In the early nineties when I was working restaurants I would
get two feet consistently (which is, I understand over the world
record...) but nowadays I struggle to get over eighteen inches.
I really can't narrow this one down. I do believe that everyone starting
magic should read the first two chapters of the Dai Vernon Book of Magic
just so they can absorb the Vernon Touch (or at least be aware of it). It
would be too easy to list one of the standards - Stars of Magic, Erdnase,
Royal Road etc - so I'm not going to. I do enjoy going back to a book a
couple of years after I got it and finding something new - that's a
thrill. I'm going to say Folding Money Fooling by Bob Neale, because it
has the Baffling Bill Braid in it.
Again, it's so hard to be specific. Living in Scotland Roy Walton has a
major influence on me, and I've always been amazed by Pat Page's
versatility. I suppose my favourite magician is whoever can entertain me
with magic to a point where I don't care that I know how it's done. David
Williamson fits that bracket, and I watched Oscar Munoz three times at
Blackpool last year - he was a top bloke :)
Top Magic Quote?
"Be Natural" by Vernon. I know, it's been quoted
so much it's about to be declared a cliché, but in two words he nailed
magic on the head. If what you are doing does not look natural, and by
that I mean the covert action does not look the same as the overt action
is replaces, suspicion is raised and you are going to get some heat. I
suppose it's why I dislike illusions so much - it's impossible to apply
the quote to a modern illusionist.
Top Magic Moment?
Watching Oscar do the McClintock Twist three times and
loving every minute of it, seeing Lennart Green for the first time on an
International video at Paul Wilson's house, not seeing Gazzo and Roy's
second deals. As for me performing, the one that stands out was a cabaret
spot in the Bear Pit in the Fringe club (a ferocious room which destroys
most performers). The room was packed, about 300-400 people crammed in,
and on the spur of the moment I did the stop/start applause gag for about
thirty seconds. That was a good feeling.