A Young Magician's View of Magic

by Richard Penna

A young person's view of magic can be very different to an adult's view. You are still learning and practising more as you grow up. You also begin to learn just how an audience sees magic and its effect on them and consequently improve your performance as a result.

I started in magic when I was seven when my best friend received a 'Houdini' magic set for his birthday. From then on both of us were hooked. There seems to be some kind of addiction to magic as we all constantly strive to be the best in this art. That might explain why there are so many adult magicians among us, as they have become interested at an early age and it has followed them throughout their life. 

Most of us go through many changes then eventually stick with a certain type of magic. I started out primarily as a close-up magician doing close-up tricks, but then I noticed that I was starting to perform these same tricks to more people (actually my friend's relatives, but the number of them who came to watch grew!) and the tricks I had at that time used 'suspicious' looking plastic props that shouted the words 'magical shop bought prop' out loud. They also seemed to get bigger until I started to develop a big stage silent act which I have been perfecting for many years. But there are reasons why stage magic is more difficult to do than close-up. Holding an audience's attention for about 10 minutes can be hard, and solid magic has to be happening just about every second. This means that you have to concentrate more and so are more prone to making mistakes. I constantly go through cycles in which I build an act in my mind, but when it comes to putting it into practice it doesn't work and the stop button on my camcorder gets pushed as things prematurely fall out of sleeves and generally things go wrong. 

This is the time in which I find that some magicians change the type of magic they do. As pressures mounted up and I began to lose concentration, things started to go wrong once too often and I ended up shrinking my act until it was about 4 minutes long like it is now. I am now mainly a close-up magician but still retain my short silent act which satisfies my secret love for silent magic. I think that close-up is right for me now, as there is no music to get out of time with, if things go wrong, and as a magician once said, "anything that can go wrong, will go wrong," and a lot of the time this has proved to be correct for me. 

The matter of whom I perform for as a 15 year old varies. I used to do the odd show at local residential homes to brighten the lives of the old folks there. I did a typical show of my then big silent act, a routine or two, then a collection of close-up tricks to end it. I now do much more professional tricks, and I can finally pull off an almost perfect Elmsley count after years of trying! I also now only do tricks using 'normal' everyday object such as cards and hankies. I admit I do have a few tricks using props you won't find in any stationer's shop such as the hot rod, but in my opinion it doesn't matter if the props you are using look slightly odd, as long as you can baffle and entertain them with the trick. 

Nowadays I am just constantly practising. I do not really perform anywhere, except the odd time at school when someone comes up and says, "show me a trick." I am really just practising so I am prepared for the day when either I am asked to perform or I decide to enter a competition.

Richard Penna March 2001