Bristol Society of Magic Mel Moore Memorial lecture – Will Houstoun

November 2015

Reviewed by Chris Payne, Treasurer Bristol Society of Magic

Thursday 29th October was a very special evening in the Bristol Society of Magic clubroom, in honour of the late Mel Moore, a member for over 45 years, Past President and key organiser of the Bristol Day of Magic. The evening was suggested by his widow Lynn, who generously sponsored the event. Barrie Savage welcomed members and guests to the full clubroom, read a short message from Lynn, paid tribute to Mel and introduced the special lecturer for the evening - Will Houstoun.

Will is the current Magic Circle Close-up Magician of the Year, edits The Magic Circular and recently completed a PhD on Professor Hoffman. The Society had chosen Will because of his unique blend of thinking, performing skill and knowledge of the history of magic. It proved to be a superb lecture.

Opening with some entertaining quotes from the past, including a description of how to impress the natives with a flaming ball of fire coming down from the heavens and setting fire to their houses, followed by a cautionary tale of death from poor preparation.
A superb “2 fly” opened the magic proper, with just 2 coins travelling individually 3 times from hand to hand. Each transpo was exceptionally clean, including an extraordinary move where a coin was tossed across and caught but the coins immediately reverted to their original positions. Explanations throughout the lecture were exceptionally clear and full.

A gentle application of heat from a lighter allowed a written prediction to visibly change to a second card, combined with the disappearance of the spectator’s signature, making a clever multiphase revelation using little known properties of the friction pen. Intriguing methods aside the explanation included a very well scripted use of Equivoque, applicable to other routines.

To close the first half Will performed a show stopping version of Total Coincidence, a deck is genuinely shuffled by the spectator and yet shown to match exactly an unopened deck guarded by the spectator. This was a masterclass in attention control and presentation.
After a break Will gave an insight to his research of a handwritten book on card tricks held in The Magic Circle Library. Published in the late eighteenth century, by an anonymous, but clearly discerning, magician, it includes descriptions of techniques that had previously been credited to Hofzinser and even Marlo. Will demonstrated a card transpo from the book, particularly highlighting the subtlety of handling of the double card and subsequent change.

Will’s take on the true nature of the Charlier Pass followed, turning a simple flourish into a highly practical card control. A neat 4 ace revelation from a shuffled deck made use of an extremely subtle stripper principle that can be applied in moments to any deck and is impervious to orientation of the cards. The lecture closed with a demonstration of his marketed effect Freak where the performer’s little finger is taken through a series of horribly distorted positions with no apparent ill effect.

Several attendees commented afterwards how much they had enjoyed the breadth of the topics, the strength of magic and the unusually clear and full explanations. Mel Moore would have loved it.

© Chris Payne, Treasurer Bristol Society of Magic, November 2015