The Nottingham Guild of Magicians Close Up Competition and Brian Holland Stage Competition
Thursday 1st July 2010
Reviewed by Neil Tittensor

As the audience gradually moved from the bar area into the theatre it was obvious everyone was in for a treat that evening. The tables were beautifully set out, with plenty of food and candle centre displays to help set the scene. Once everyone was settled Graham Harper welcomed us all to the evening and introduced us to those who would be providing the entertainment around the tables. Although there were ten performers only six were actually taking part in the competition. The competitors were Ricky Gardiner, Rhys Smith, Shane Morrison, Carl Wilkinson, Marcel Burn and Abdul Khalifa. From the reactions around the room it was obvious that every table was well entertained and all the acts were very well received. The competitors themselves entertained with a mix of cards, coins, classics of magic and generally good entertainment, with various predictions being made, and even rings being found in Kiwi fruit! Between each performance at the tables Graham kept us amused with his stories and light hearted banter, and the food was enjoyed by all.

There was a short break following the close up competition which allowed the audience to get some air, the heat was very intense during the evening and although this may have made some feel a little uncomfortable it certainly did not spoil the evening in any way.

Once we were all again seated the stage competition began. This time there were four performers and each one had a completely different style of magic. Matt Arnold, Nick Brunger, Carl Leek and Rhys Smith had obviously all worked hard to ensure they gave their best. One concentrated on the magic of the mind, one on comedy, one on general and one included a large illusion. Again the audience were well entertained and it was obvious from the reactions that this was yet another magical experience for all those present.

The judges had a difficult job to separate the acts, with there being different styles and approaches, and it took a while for the marks to be counted. During this time 16 year old Mandy Fletcher from Glasgow entertained the audience with her Scottish act, carrying on her family tradition.

Finally the marks were in, and the audience congratulated all those who had taken part. The winner of the Close Up Competition was Ricky Gardiner and the winner of the Stage Competition, winning the Brian Holland Trophy, was Rhys Smith. Everyone was in agreement with the results and the final applause was not just for the winners but for all the performers who had taken part.

This was a very successful evening. It is very unusual for a Close Up Competition and Stage Competition to be held on the same night and the set up for the evening gives the performers very authentic working conditions. With everyone sitting around large tables the close up setting is ideal for the performers having to work in a ‘real’ situation, and then the stage competition is a cabaret style but with stage facilities. I am sure this is a unique situation for a club competition and the Nottingham Guild of Magicians should be congratulated for the amount of thought and effort that has gone into arranging such an environment in which the competitors can perform.

Particular mention should be made of the organiser, Andrew Morrison, for ensuring that all was set in time for the start of the evening, as there was an immense amount of preparation required within the venue. Thanks is also given to Dawn May and her team of helpers who prepared the food and ensured that everyone had sufficient on their table.

Well done to everyone who took part in this event, and congratulations to the winners. I am sure that everyone is already wanting to book their ticket for the next one.


Photo: Ricky Gardiner, left, (Winner of the Close Up Competition) and Rhys Smith (Winner Brian Holland Stage Competition).


© Neil Tittensor, August 2010