Chan Canasta - A Remarkable Man

by David Britland

Published by Martin Breese

Reviewed by Andy Nyman

Once in a while a book comes along that, no matter what the cost, simply must be purchased. This David Britland analysis of Chan Canasta's work is such a publication.

Before reviewing the book I must state one fundamental problem I have with the publication. I think it is at best morally ambiguous to publish a book of someone's effects when they haven't done so themselves. One of the reasons the Berglas book is so eagerly anticipated is because it comes straight from the horse's mouth. No matter how good Britland's theories are, they will always remain just that. Whilst Britland may be 100% correct on every piece of speculation - it can never be anything other than that. Equally this book would never have been published whilst Canasta was alive, it would have been called theft and involuntary exposure, now he is not here to defend his ideas does it make it any less of a crime?

Despite my own moral dilemma I couldn't wait to read this book. Britland has analysed in the tiniest detail the surviving three recordings of Canasta's work. The level to which Britland digs is fantastic. Every word, nuance and thought is placed under his 'microscope'.

Every effect in the book is a masterclass in taking an effect and turning it into a mind-blowing experience. Canasta's ability to take risks is awe-inspiring. It is pointless to single out particular effects, as everything contained is equally superb.

The over powering feeling one gets from this book is the image of a man who is prepared to risk everything for the effect. A man who is prepared to be on Live TV, in front of millions of viewers and fail! It becomes clear that it is primarily though this bravery that Canasta achieves his jaw-dropping brilliance. It is his thinking that is the most rewarding part of this book. I doubt many performers will use much material from this book, in fact much of it appears to be fairly simple tricks. With Canasta you got the whole package - the man, the accent and the presence that floored you.

Martin Breese has published yet another magnificent book. Beautifully bound in classic 'Breese' style. This already feels like the sought after classic it is destined to become. The price, somewhere between 60 & 70, is deliberately high to keep the curious away. If you can get over the price and the feeling that if Canasta were alive he'd be furious my final thought is buy this book before it becomes a collectors item.

Andy Nyman September 2000