La Cripta Magica

Reviewed by Lee Alex

Before attending the National Magic Convention last weekend in Barcelona, I had the opportunity to pass a few days in Madrid.

Barcelona strangely enough has more magic shops than Madrid (including “El Rey de la Magica” established in 1881), however Madrid offers more in the way of public magic shows, including street performances at various locations in the centre of the city. One of my evenings was spent at a very quaint establishment known as “La Cripta Magica”.

Located not far from the centre of the city, a short taxi ride found us in front of the unobtrusive, however strangely decorated door of the “crypt” – appropriately named. Entrance is obtained by ringing the bell; the door is opened once you have announced yourself. I must stress at this point that a reservation is absolutely necessary, and make sure you book ahead of time; the venue is limited to 60 people and it gets full!

The whole crypt is decorated in the style of a theatre from the beginning of the century. You would be forgiven if you thought that the show would be presented by the likes of David Devant, Thurston or Kellar. Seating in the main is at low tables with chairs to match dotted around. I suppose that most spectators attend in groups, rather than couples or individuals. You do have the opportunity to sit in one of the boxes too, these giving an air of importance and a real feeling that you are in a theatre as opposed to a bar (indeed the venue can not be compared to any other place I have visited).

The walls of the crypt are lined with shelves which contain pieces from the collection of the owner, magician Ramon. Here you have the opportunity to muse at the weird and wonderful original magical pieces – a Houdin clock, various heads from ventriloquist dummies that could certainly tell a grand tale if their masters were still alive, boxed magic sets more than a century old, all complete with every working piece, an array of cinematographic lanterns and inventions that would inspire Georges Méliès, posters from an era past. One of the highlights is the turning face on the ceiling in front of the small bar – take a moment to watch the facial expression here. Talking of the bar, I would not advise you to linger long here, as there appears to be a regular client seated here, who may make you believe that you have had more to drink than you thought!... If you do have one drink too many and need to make your way to the toilet, be warned, as these are cleverly disguised behind bookshelves, reminiscent of something out of Harry Potter. Apart from all the weird and wonderful paraphernalia there are also visiting cards and photos of world famous magicians who have visited the crypt – David Copperfield, Jeff McBride, Eugene Berger, Paul Daniels, Rene Levand, Juan Tamariz (indeed if you are lucky, you may get to see Juan perform).

Ramon justifiably is very proud of his collection and is willing to spend time with you to explain the many marvels to be discovered at the crypt.

Upon arrival you may place an order for a drink. This first drink is included in the price for the evening. Additional drinks may be purchased at very reasonable prices. The programme varies (check website for current performers and dates) and is split into two parts. Ramon himself introduces the show and acts as compere. During my visit Spanish magician Iñaki Zabaletta was performing. An expert card magician, this young performer had an amazing electric and great stage presence, it was a joy to watch even though I don’t understand the language. The programme included a general variety of magic performed on the quaint stage, which is hidden behind a beautiful theatre curtain and proscenium, just like in a proper theatre, until the performance begins.

If you find yourself in Madrid then I highly recommend a visit to La Cripta Magica. This is the haunt of many magicians, and not just locals. On my visit Argentinean stage magician Mirko was present too. The atmosphere of the crypt is incredible and takes you away from the hustle and bustle of the city, back in time to the era that we recently experienced in the films “Prestige” and “Illusionist”. A truly unique and enjoyable experience.


© Lee Alex, September 2007