An Evening of Magic and Mystery
Reported by James Willoughby


The annual Evening of Magic and Mystery, mounted in aid of the Friends of the Five Parishes, appeared once again at Great Easton Village Hall in a puff of glitter and stage smoke. Previous evenings have become so famous that this year, for the first time, one evening became two – it was, of course, sold out on both nights. The theme was Hallowe’en, so the hall came decked with pumpkins and festive rubber ghouls, transformed into whatever the Hallowe’en equivalent might be of Santa’s Grotto.

Michael Goulding, dapper in his tails as Jack Buchanan, struck a cordial note of welcome. Thereafter, the stage belonged to our compère without compare, Brian Miller, who in the spirit of the evening was apparently channelling the ghost of Jack Benny. A splendid dinner was conjured up by the tireless Fran Woodrow and her team of willing helpers, and diners were entertained by some dazzling table magic, provided by Alan Shaxon, Dennis Patten, Michael Alderman, and Brian himself. The tombola was a great success, with nearly two hundred prizes to be won each night. Dinner was followed by the Hallowe’en fancy-dress parade. Some of the costumes seen on Friday night were still being talked about on Saturday, and had perhaps even fuelled a few nightmares. Saturday’s costumes were rather more home-spun, but no one could deny it was all done in great spirit.

Then it was time for Brian to don his famous sparkly jacket and introduce the main event. First on to the stage was Mandy Fletcher, a newcomer from north of the Border, with some patriotic prop magic, conjuring the Scottish flag out of scarves, torn-up newspaper, or indeed thin air. She was followed by Terry Herbert, back in town having recently performed before the court of Monaco. We watched him conjure with an invisible deck of cards and magically restore the smashed wristwatch of a hapless volunteer, all the while bringing down the house with his hilarious banter. Oh yes, and the other half of a torn-up twenty pound note turned up in a sausage. The final act of the evening was Martyn James, in Brian’s opinion one of the slickest showmen at work today. It was a genuinely spell-binding act, in which his lovely assistant Jenny was variously boxed and sliced and transmitted through solid walls, and somehow emerged still smiling gamely at the end. By Sunday evening Martyn and Jenny were in Egypt, back performing on the international circuit.

In its triumphant ninth year, who could argue that Great Easton hasn’t now taken its place on that circuit, alongside Monaco and Las Vegas? Truly, all the credit belongs to the dynamic duo of Brian and Audrey, who, like all the best illusionists, make an astonishing result look effortless, consistently able, year after year, to pull this amazing rabbit out of the hat.

© James Willoughby, November 2011