Paul Abbey Lecture: Escapology and the History of Handcuffs
South Downs Magicians
6th October 2010
Review and photo by Paul Bromley MMC, Secretary, South Downs Magicians

This was the first time Paul Abbey had presented a full evening lecture on Escapology and the History of Handcuffs – judging by the excellent evening we had, I’m sure it won’t be the last.

Paul describes himself as “an escapologist who doesn’t do escapology”. Instead, he uses the apparatus and methodology of the escapologist as part of his act – it isn’t sold to the audience as escapology but it achieves what Paul calls the “ooh, ah” factor in the way a traditional escape or release does.

He demonstrated this idea with a silk routine on a female spectator involving dissolving knots and the silk appearing to pass through the wrist. It was ideal for close-up work around tables.

Then it was on to a very simple but effective rope tie and release before he showed us the Siberian Chain Escape using the padlock and chain originally used on the David Nixon show which the late Ali Bongo had given to Paul.

Paul traces his performance skills to his background as an actor and a great, great grandfather who was a showman who worked with Charlie Chaplin before the comic actor moved to the US. This was evident when he treated us to his comedy escape routine using shackles, two spectators holding a blue cloth as screening and a lot of fun along the way.

After the break, we were shown a huge array of handcuffs, lockpicking devices and similar apparatus to that used by Houdini. Paul has a fascination with watches, clocks and locks through his training as an engineer and he demonstrated his vast knowledge of this area with very full and detailed explanations of how all the various devices worked.

He also treated us to many anecdotes of his performances including being challenged to escape from police handcuffs and the suffering he has endured when things haven’t always gone according to plan. This reminded us all that escapology can be dangerous. Paul passed on the advice of a fellow performer that “if you can’t stand the pain, don’t do it.”

Paul is an excellent teacher who injects a great deal of energy and humour into his presentation. Alongside his detailed knowledge and vast experience, he makes for a first-class lecturer.

Paul ended the evening by saying he would welcome a return visit to our club to include more items and material because he had run out of time. The unanimous view of the members who attended this excellent evening was that we would enthusiastically welcome back Paul Abbey - lock, stock and barrel.

© Paul Bromley MMC, Secretary, South Downs Magicians, October 2010