Three Lectures + An Evening of Magic and Illusion

Nottingham Guild of Magicians
Sunday 3rd February 2008

Sunday February 3rd at the Bonington Theatre, Arnold, Nottingham once again was the epicentre of magic and illusion – and for good reason.

The good ship Nottingham Guild of Magicians Captained by Freddie Wilkinson, First-mate Andrew Morrison and the motley (but accomplished) crew of Fred Wilkinson Snr, Roy Bond, Rhys Smith, and yours truly steered a solid course and produced a show piece par excellence if I say so myself.

The established format of three lectures and an evening gala show is gaining rapid momentum, drawing magicians and muggles from far and wide.

The opening lecture by Marc Paul (Probably the best mind reader on the planet) was genuinely spell-binding. The subject matter was divided into micro and macro effects, the former relating to one on one effects and macro to reading more people. Even a one on one effect can be maximised by a staggered reveal (reviewers phrase) advice even stretched to working on TV, revealing for the camera first – again to maximise the reaction – all commercial and clever stuff. If you feel intense eyes over your shoulder on the train don’t worry it will only be Marc Paul practicing the glimpse for his latest book test!

A truly brilliant lecture by Marc was followed by Roy Davenport who lectured on stage craft – I say lecture but there was no distance between Roy and the audience who lapped up the top tips about timing and stage presence, and even how to milk applause. Although going forward to his evening spot it seems doubtful that any applause he gets is anything but spontaneous. A charming and totally absorbing lecture.

The third and final lecture of the day was President of the Magic Circle Alan Shaxon, his approach to routines totally convincing, solid and very entertaining. The author’s favourites being the robbery of his ring, watch and wallet, all of which re-appeared at the end of the routine with a classy flourish. A torn and restored holiday cruise brochure was brilliant in its simplicity – hence the ship vanish mentioned above.

And so after sound and lighting checks, last minute setting of props and more make up than Boots the Chemist it was time for curtain up. On the stroke of 7.00pm they parted with naval precision to reveal Clive Moore, President of Derby Magic Circle and the host for the evening. Clive kept things flowing without “Showboating” and his well informed introductions kept the audience captivated.

Moira Fletcher invaded Nottingham with a plethora of productions and the widest smile of the show. The act, one from her late father Duncan Fletcher was simply beautiful from start to finish. A clue to her origin may have been the giant cross of St Andrew or the entertaining upbeat and patriotic soundtrack.

Next came Guild President himself Freddie Wilkinson who entertained us all with a bamboozling card trick and off beat humour, not to mention the famous vanishing bandana which provoked belly laughs from all. It would be nice to know where Freddie buys his fruit because his bananas have five pound notes in them. Sadly his counting let him down on the night as there are 4 sections when you peel a banana Freddie!

Stuart Brown, also from Derby MC performed a polished manipulation act. The audience had clearly warmed up by now as every back palm and production was recognized with a large round of applause. His dancing hanky routine had grown since his last appearance and now had another friend; all was well executed and very entertaining.

Old friends of the Guild Sam and Vicki Lane in the shape of Vizage were next up with the premiere of a quick change act to challenge all others. At least a dozen changes flashed before me during the five or so minutes, many of which I have never seen done before. The audience lapped it up and gave them the biggest applause of the night and deservedly so. Song, dance and great choreography – a true spectacle and a taste of more to come…

Alan Shaxon (Chief Wizard and Head Warlock) closed the first half of the show with consummate professionalism. Routines included all the Shaxon classics – the vanish of a silk from glass, a charming story to accompany the dye tube, and a fabulous thumb tie with large hoops that got gasps and whoops from the audience. Whilst recovering he demonstrated his angling skills with the spectacular production of a 3 strong shoal of goldfish and to finish (As if we didn’t have enough water) his trade mark hydrostatic glass.

A 30 minute interval followed, longer than normal yes but it did give everyone time to chat and catch up with those old friends you only ever seem to meet up with at magic events.

Magic’s Royal family was represented in the second half by Roy Davenport who performed an extremely well researched and executed act originally done by his Grandfather Lewis. Research in to the music, choreography and costumes paid dividends, his routines were all classics of magic including billiard balls, thimbles and silks, his performance was slow and precise and took you right back to a day when magic packed out variety halls and theatres up and down the land. Roy’s personality more than filled the ample auditorium – a class act.

Billed as Scotland’s rising star 15 year old Mandy Fletcher certainly is, Mandy performed an accomplished routine in a dance genre; she has a smile as wide as the Clyde itself, the act culminated in the production of giant pom-poms and the splits of eye watering proportions. This was held agonizingly long for her to be then showered with confetti, a colourful end to a colourful act – Mandy WILL be a star.

Marc Paul asked for “Believers” and “Sceptics” at the start of his act, which was truly awesome. His divinations of information in seemingly impossible circumstances left every seasoned magician saying the immortal line “How the **** did he do that?” An entertaining Yours and Mine routine with numbered envelopes, a book test which defied any sense of logic, and to finish he totally slayed a volunteer by telling her the name of a person she had spontaneously thought of. At the end of his performance there were more Believers than Sceptics and quite frankly why not?

Vizage closed the show in their imitable style, illusions included a cardboard sword box that must be one of the smallest that anyone uses? My guinea pig plays in one larger than that and she doesn’t have to dodge Sam’s numerous wooden spikes or change clothes like Vicki. One of the best heads off to be seen anywhere followed, and finally a levitation with Vicki looking as sexy and glamorous as ever with stunning voice to match singing a very moving song. They really do have to be one of the best illusion acts in the country – and it shows when you can plot their every movement by looking through the what’s on pages of MagicWeek.

A great end to a great show, the Nottingham Guild of Magicians is now a strident force in days of this type.

Oh you are asking why the nautical theme to my review? Well upon arrival we were faced with a flood of Biblical proportions as the swimming pool below the theatre had sprung a leak!

The next planned extravaganza is on Sunday 14th September 2008, book early to avoid disappointment.

See you all there.

© Graham Harper, February 2008