Mind Magic 2000

The Park Court Hotel, London W2

12th November 2000
Reviewed by Mark Elsdon

Photos by Duncan Trillo


Not having attended either of the two previous Mind Magic events, I arrived at the Thistle Lancaster Gate last Sunday morning hoping that the day was as good in reality as it looked on paper. I needn't have worried. Duncan Trillo had organised a delightful day. A list of the attendees read like a who's who of UK Mentalism so I knew that each of the performers or lecturers would have to be something special indeed. Were they? Read on...


First up was the inimitable Ali Bongo. Previously I have never been a great fan of Ali but I came away totally converted! All of the material he showed us was stuff that he had developed for either David Nixon or Paul Daniels. With the theme of 'Think Big' he absolutely nailed the audience with eleven different forces/routines. Whether you want to force a colour, a city, a picture or a bingo ball you will never again have to think of a method, because Ali has already thought of the best one! And this was all stuff he developed years ago! Like I say, I'm now a huge fan and I felt I'd had my money's worth from the day already.


Next up was the Star Guest, another veteran of TV and stage, David Berglas. A performer of his experience is always worth listening to and his presentation today was no exception. In the form of a slide show, he shared with us some of the many highlights of his illustrious career. He has much knowledge to share, both in person and hopefully soon in his career-retrospective book. Overall this was a fascinating talk, about his methods, presentations and the man himself.


Following lunch, Chris Hare performed some entertaining memory work. Two things are worth mentioning about Chris, I think. Firstly, I really enjoyed seeing the way he actually 'performed' his material. Too often this type of material is just demonstrated as some kind of dry recitation. Quite the opposite, Chris was very upbeat and his performance had a lot of energy. Secondly, a comment made by someone else during the program about Chris's performance. During a deck memorization routine Chris made several mistakes and the comment was later made that this makes it all the more believable. I'm sorry but I don't agree. In a Mentalism routine, I do think that an error or two, well placed, can add to the plausibility or realness of the proceedings. During a demonstration of memory techniques, however, the goal is 100% accuracy. As a spectator (not a magician) I know this can be accomplished because I've seen it done before and thus if the performer gets some information wrong it doesn't make it seem more real to me, it just looks like what it is - he simply can't remember some stuff. Not good for a memory act! As I said, it wasn't Chris who made the comment and so it shouldn't detract from his success as a vibrant, entertaining performer.


Providing easily one of the performance highlights of this day, and possibly any day, was Graham P. Jolley. The man is a walking object lesson in presentation. He is a true comedy genius and uses his brilliant delivery to completely disarm you so that his material fools you, even though you know that you should know what he's doing (if you know what I mean!) Graham has developed his character to perfection and I can't imagine anybody not thoroughly enjoying his performance. Somebody please give this man a T.V. series. Now.


Andy Fisher provided much food for thought. Eugene Burger-style he had come up with some very valid performance art related questions. He began with a pretend phone conversation that described Disillusioned Illusionist Syndrome and all it's symptoms. My personally feeling is that he should have spoken for just a couple of minutes following this dialogue. Don't misunderstand - I am a big fan of discussions of magic theory, but I would have rather Andy had presented his 13-step journey of tools for artistic self-expression in the form of some notes, rather than an extended talk. The information was both interesting and valuable, but I'd rather digest it at my own pace.


In a paper titled 'Full Circle,' Brian Barnes shared with us some of his research on the components of influencing other people. His scholarly and scientifically sound approach raised some questions that all of us as performers would do well to think about. A brief but stimulating talk.


And so it turned out that Duncan had saved the best for last: Danny Buckler. He is quite simply one of the funniest people alive. Teaching by example, he had some relevant stuff to share with us on the subject of character. Or so he tells me. I was too busy laughing during his performance to notice anything else. He is another performer that should be on T.V. immediately. He is already fully developed as a comic and deserves huge success. And next time you see him, ask him to tell you the story of the guy he'd punched out at his gig the previous night. Absolutely classic.


The day was rounded off with the Mind Magic Forum featuring Jolley, Fisher, Berglas, Brown and Bongo. Many felt that the ten minute talk Derren Brown gave to introduce himself was one of the highlights of the day. It was a discussion of becoming the hero figure rather than the god figure in our performances - heady and important stuff. Maybe next year he can be persuaded to expand on this?


Anyway, back to the forum. You would think that given the line-up it would be a valuable opportunity to share their experience and yet I don't feel that it really worked, somehow. Perhaps the format would benefit from a re-think.


To sum up, then, a fantastic day - probably the best one-day convention I've ever attended. Duncan had organised everything superbly, and even when a couple of lectures ran over time he still kept everything running smoothly. Paul Hallas was there as a dealer (surprisingly not a lecturer, maybe next year?) and had plenty Mentalism books, tricks and manuscripts so that we didn't get magic convention withdrawal symptoms. The variety and quality of the lectures was outstanding and I can't imagine anyone went home unsatisfied. Mind Magic 2000 - a huge success.

Mark Elsdon, November 2000