Portsmouth & District Magic Circle Jumbo Day

28th October 2007
Reviewed by Darren Lawbuary

A grey, rainy morning greeted dealers and early registrants at Buckland Community Centre last Sunday. Early signs predicted a slightly lower turn out than in previous years, helped in no small way by the appalling rail situation, the Great South Run and the typically depressing weather.

Once all the rooms had been prepared, the dealers were allowed in to set up, ably assisted by the Stewards. Additional to the usual, longstanding regular Professional dealers, were the dozens of ‘ordinary punters’ - each selling a plethora of magical items. Many hidden gems were to be found therein.

It must be said from the outset, how effective Robbie and Clint’s new hi-tec front desk operation was, complete with ‘fast-track’ option. The flow of registrants, both new and old was smooth and fast.

Business for the kitchen crew and bar staff was brisk and remained so for the whole day. They coped admirably well with the constant high demand.

Due, I am sure, to the reasons stated earlier, the main hall seemed to take a while to fill up. I overheard quite a few horror stories of parking, traffic jams, delayed public transport (and the weather).

Early afternoon, and the hall was prepared for the star lecture. As to be expected, it was a capacity crowd who had the pleasure of watching Wayne Dobson simply refuse to allow his disability to beat him. His handling of Hoy’s Tossed out Deck is one of the best around.

And so to the close-up sessions. Paul Gordon, David Gemmell, Mark Shortland and James Piper entertained the 3 rooms with their distinctly unique acts and personas. It is fair to say, that cards dominated. Fine by me (you will NOT be surprised to hear).

Paul Gordon surprised us with his balloon workshop (only kidding, Paul!) – performing amongst other things a delightful Ambitious routine and his updated Corner of Piccadilly. It’s always good to watch Paul perform. A master with the pasteboards.

David Gemmell regaled us with his act that included Dave’s 3 coin trick, a sublime Ace to Kings routine and a 4 ace Triumph. My personal highlight was his handling of J C Wagner’s "Super Closer".

Mark Shortland’s manic personality endeared himself to us all. His wonderful handling of the venerable 4 Burglars plot, a fun 3-picture-prediction, ambitious card and card-to-box were warmly received.

A name that may have been unknown to most of us was James Piper from Wales. But what a great booking he proved to be. This was his 1st ever performance at a convention, but you would never have known. A fast-paced coin flurry with card box production was quickly followed by a spades-suit-revelation, court cards into aces, collectors and assembly. These were all complimented by his charming Welsh manner. He is performing at Cardiff soon. I predict big things for this gentleman. Remember, we saw him here, first.

Meanwhile, in the main hall, frantic preparation was underway in readiness for the evening Gala show. Simon and his team (both front of house and backstage) produce miracles year after year, in turning a vast, empty hall into a very credible professional Gala venue.

We welcomed for the 1st time the inimitable Rod Newman as our emcee for the evening. A packed audience which included Alan Shaxon President of the Magic Circle were treated to no less than 6 uniquely different acts. Shadowlands was a stunning mixture of storytelling and 2D puppetry. No greater compliment was paid than by Derek Mc Faull, President of IBM British Ring, who booked them immediately for his Presidential Dinner.

Michael Pierce followed. This self-proclaimed “old, therefore cheap” variety entertainer had us all in stitches as he fired off gag after gag, all the while, juggling with tennis racquets, balls, diablo’s and furniture (complete with cutlery and crockery); tremendously enjoyable.

Closing the 1st half instead of the 2nd at his own request, was Wayne Dobson. More than understandable, considering he had been dealer-demming all day, AND delivering the lecture in the afternoon too. At the end of his famous ‘act-as-seen’ there was a deserved standing ovation.

The 2nd half opened with the illusion act of James Smith (Reflections). It would appear that a couple of his loads went astray, and the climax of the production and brief appearance of his assistant fizzled out sadly, with no distinct denouement.

Graham Lee and his ‘classics of magic’ balloon act was the penultimate performer. Even WITH a couple of hic-cups he won the audience over with his humour and sheer perseverance! The finale of a latex ‘snow storm in China’ proved to be a crowd-winner.

And last, but no means least, Mark Shortland. A more-than-worthy finale with his great handling of Steve Bedwell’s version of Invisible Deck (Shake, Shuffle & Twist), and an awfully funny bullet catch routine with a good sport from the audience.

A lovely touch at the end of proceedings by MC Rod was to have the performers back on stage en masse for one last bow.

I am convinced that EVERYBODY left having had a wonderful time. Due in no-small-way to Harold Straker and his dedicated team of staff putting in months of work for the benefit of us all. Thank you all, Harold. Beat THAT.


© Darren Lawbuary, December 2007




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