The Video of Secrets, Vol 1 & 2

Carney on Ramsey, Lessons in Misdirection

by John Carney
Reviewed by Ian Keable

Rather carelessly I failed to get a copy of John Carney’s The Book of Secrets before it sold out; so I have had to be content with watching these DVDs of at least some of the material contained in this modern classic (an oxymoron if ever I’ve written one!).

The problem with John Carney is that he is everything a magician is not – and in the process becomes more of a magician than the rest of us. Everything he does is so understated, so devoid of any magical moves, so effortless, that you are almost tempted to demand your money back on viewing him. Where’s the skill, where are the flourishes, where’s the obvious practise? It is quite clear that he was just born with the ability to make coins disappear before your eyes, remove wooden cigars from small purses and produce thimbles out of thin air.

In some ways when you see the explanations it is almost more infuriating. Because there are no particularly technical moves, nothing individually that you could not crack in half an hour, certainly no knuckle breakers that you can show off to your magical pals. It’s just a seamless whole of impeccable misdirection, natural handling and the elimination of all outward displays of skill.

I think that anybody who bought these DVDs to perform move for move what John Carney does would be wasting their money. John has so individualised the routines that they fit him like a glove – and on anyone else they would be a fashion disaster. However if you can begin to absorb the thinking behind everything he does and try to apply it to some of your own routines, then you cannot help but become a better magician.

Nearly all of the tricks are performed before a live audience and are excellently shot (only one routine I thought was a little too distant from the camera to fully appreciate it). The explanations are lucid and complete. I have not watched many magical DVDs so cannot make comparisons. But I found these uniformly first class on every level.

Volume One contains Cigars from Purse (my personal favourite), a couple of Linking Ring moves, the Miser’s Dream, Vernon’s Three Ball Transposition done with grapes and one card trick, Leipzig’s Opener. Volume Two has Coins in Glass, a Knotted Silk routine, multiple control of cards and two of Carney’s best tricks – Cards up the Sleeve (and I had always thought that the card passing across his ‘carpet of pleasure’ involved some incredibly complex pull mechanism) and his Thimble routine.

If you have not encountered John Carney before, and prefer DVDs to books, I would recommend before these two volumes his Carney on Ramsay, Lessons in Misdirection DVD. This has the complete performance and detailed explanation of his masterful ‘Cylinder and Coins’ and ‘Coins in the Hat’, with a plentiful supply of the Ramsay philosophy thrown in for good measure. If you thought that all John Ramsay had to say was ‘if you want your audience to look at something, look at it yourself; if you want them to look away, look at them’ then this will be a real eye opener.


Unreservedly recommended.


© Ian Keable, October 2003


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