South Shields 2008

Reviewed by Dale Shrimpton

Once again, what has become the highlight of my magical year has come and gone. And what a great convention it was. Martin Duffy, Kari Prinn, and the rest of the organizing body behind this fantastic convention, managed to pull out all the stops, and provide magicians and laymen alike, a dazzling display of magical talent from around the world. It's not just about the magic. This convention is without doubt one of the friendliest there is. It’s a testament to this convention, that most will be returning next year, regardless of who is on the bill.

The highlights…

Top of the list has to be the one, the only…..

Juan Tamariz (Spain)
What can I say that hasn’t already been said about Juan? Nothing. The man's a living legend! Many of the attendees to this year's convention, came on the strength of Juan being there alone. He gave a full 2 hour show, in the perfect venue that the Custom House supply, and a further 2 hour lecture later on in the weekend, on his theories on the performance of magic. Brilliant stuff!

Alain Nu. (USA)
This was Alain’s first visit to the UK. In his stage presentation he bent silverware, performed a book test, and PK touched people. On paper, this sounds reasonably standard fare, but Alain's gift is injecting something special into his performance. The X factor if you like, that raises him above many of the run of the mill mentalists that are out there. His lecture towards the end of the weekend, also gave him the chance to explain his presentation of Anders Moden’s Healed and Sealed. It looks good. It's clear to see why Alain is in demand from people like David Blaine.

Brando & Silvana (Spain)
This award winning act opened on a street in Paris. A flower girl plies her trade, in competition with the street hustler. In this simple scenario, they performed cups and balls, a lovely self levitation, balls from mouth, bow tie from mouth etc... ending in a very smooth dress change, and a complete change of set. Silvana returned the next night, with a simply gorgeous solo act, with linking juggling rings, and a charming version of the Indian sand trick, using confetti, and multi coloured snow storm. This was for me the nicest trick of the weekend. They too lectured later in the weekend. Through interpreters, they explained some of the fundamentally important things involved in stage magic, in particular deportment and misdirection. A brilliant talk.

Charlie Frye (USA)
I love Charlie Frye. And going by the incredible reception the audiences gave him I am not alone. His blend of Carnie charm, and broad slapstick humour is, for me, my idea of a perfect act. And he is without doubt one of the top 3 jugglers too. Fantastic! As is his close-up magic, his lecture, and his stage magic. Is there no end to this mans talents? I doubt it very much. And he’s a genuinely nice guy too!

Mel Mellers (UK)
My first time seeing Mel work, and hopefully not my last. Strong magic and mentalism interlaced with perfectly timed insult (but not insulting) humour. This man is a master of his craft. He also gave a lecture full of useful practical magic.

Matthew J Dowden (UK)
The tabs open, and Matthew is found in a tux, on a stool. He then gives a fine display of card manips and productions. This followed by some audience participation, with gags. It's great, but I felt that Matthew should have just done the manips. Mainly because of the over run… more to follow.

Terry Herbert (UK)
Firstly, a chance to watch a master of his craft, Terry Herbert, mesmerise a theatre full of 300+ local children was a treat. It's impossible to list everything he did, but his final effect, the rare Anverdi’s Coin to Glass, was of particular interest to the magicians. I'd love to find one myself. Following his hour long show he gave a talk on his philosophy on the art of entertaining children. This advice was worth the price of admission alone. He also had a few items to sell afterwards, each one a gem, and way too cheap! He also appeared on the Gala show.

Martin Duffy (UK)
Not just the instigator of this wonderful convention. He gave a display and demonstration of his incredible collection of Flea Circuses. I am sure that nobody could fail to fall in love with these almost invisible characters. All I can say is. I want one I want one!!! Contact Martin for more details.

Paul Zerdin (UK)
The UK’s top ventriloquist gave the audience top notch entertainment with two characters. The ever popular, always cheeky, Sam and a new character (to me anyway) his granddad Albert. Some of the things Albert said were a tiny bit near the knuckle for me, but great never the less.

John Archer (UK)
The fact that a busy guy like John comes to this convention as a delegate every year is proof positive that it is one hell of a great weekend. John performed both on the Saturday night Gala Show as compere and in the Friday night late show back at the Sea Hotel. I’ve seen John many times – here he was at his best. His invisible opening was inspired, and the ukulele gag perfect for this kind of event. On the Friday night show we saw John perform some of his signature effects. These included the wonderful Nana’s box, his Blindfold routine, and a Seven Keys type of effect. Also on the bill on the Friday show, was Pat Monahan, who compered the Friday night Gala, and a lovely girl singer/guitarist who’s name I am afraid, escapes me. (Blame the beer)

Zane (UK)
I have to say that this opening act didn’t grab me. Unfortunately, for the other acts on the bill, it over ran by a good 20 minutes, which put a bit of a damper on the Saturday night show. Personally, I would of cut the act down by at least two thirds, and miss out the not very magical Illusion at the end. This “escape” is not angle-proof and looks far from dangerous. From a magician’s point of view, the McBride mask act only works when Jeff does it. And I don’t think that anybody should produce doves and handle them in quite the rough way that Zane did this night. Likewise the snake.

Close up sessions…

Alain Nu (USA)
Performed 3 effects. He gave an explanation of how magicians vanish silk handkerchiefs giving three explanations. He then did an Invisible Deck routine with a small twist and ended up with a great presentation of the Any Card at Any Number – the whole audience generating the number.

Charlie Frye (USA)
A flurry of effects using cards, coins and lots more. Many will know I’m not a fan of flourishing. If everybody was as great at it as Charlie... I might just change my mind.

Ian Moran (UK)
Ian performed several nice effects, starting with a 3 Fly routine. This was as good an act as you are likely to see at a convention.


In closing, Id like to say a huge thanks to Martin, Karri, and all the boys at Magicbox, for once again making this convention one of the greats.

Long may it continue!!!!


© Dale Shrimpton, April 2008.