Gold Dust worthless at Magic Circle
The Amazing Magic Circle Christmas Show 2002
Reviewed & photographed by John Derris

It's true! A bag of hard-won gold dust from Alaska could not have purchased a ticket for The Amazing Magic Circle Christmas Show as all performances were completely sold out two weeks before the first card fan was produced. The most successful Christmas magic show in Britain today, now in its fifth year, grows in popularity proving that live magic does have an appeal to a market that is becoming jaded with nearly 400 TV channels that struggle to provide entertainment, constantly resorting to repeats. (Photo: David Ball, Chris Pratt and Mike Alderman)


Despite comments that it should be billed as "a show for all the family", magic and its most famous home has an instant appeal that intrigues and delights people of all ages without resorting to self-styled children's entertainment. Magic is magic and the image of The Magic Circle and its cachet grabs the imagination of everyone and the annual show offers its audiences a chance to see its museum, clubroom and famous artifacts of the past hundred years as well as live magic performed close-up and on stage.


And this year's artistes engaged to continue the Circle's festive reputation created an atmosphere that could be cut into slices and gift wrapped. It was a very good show. To witness the rapt attention and response to the close-up (read that as parlour magic - surely the next coming phase of magic entertainment as indicated by Steve Cohen at The Langham Hotel recently) by seasoned professionals such as Mike Austin (photo), Julian James and Rajan confirmed that magic can be entertaining and is in demand. And it wasn't children's magic, it was magic! It is not necessary to list their effects but just to confirm that these three wise men know how to entertain be it with cards, sponge balls or a piece of rope.


Who better to break the ice and make friends with the audience in the Circle's superb 162 seat theatre than Terry Seabrooke. Adults, kids, drunks, hecklers, he's done it all with his magic and his famed style of humour and he immediately set the mood for an eagerly awaited extravaganza as he introduced the artistes to a show that did not disappoint. Opening spot - tough sometimes but not if you are Roy Davenport (photo) re-creating the yesteryear act of his great grandfather Lewis Davenport. With a beaming smile, confidence and a manipulative skill (break a leg and see his solid billiard ball routine sometime; it blends real magic with knuckle busting juggling that always draws spontaneous applause from lay people and admiration from magicians) plus many of the subtleties that his great grandfather introduced over a century ago. The soup plates, the tambourine rings, the unique Davenport presentation of the two-in-one mutilated sunshade (if you copy it, stand by for a medley of dropped coins on the floor!) and of course the ever- changing coloured waistcoat all add up to confirm that real magic knows no time span. A delightful act that gets better and better.


Then came another silent act but one that fitted perfectly with the occasion. Brian Sefton, whose quiet, smooth manner lulls you into a warm belief in magic as he effortlessly produces doves and canes, creates multi-coloured larger-than-average card fans and links and unlinks steel rings almost as slowly as the late Richard Ross. And with an off-beat ending whereby instead of disappearing the cage containing the doves, a la the obligatory Channing Pollock finale, he vanished the doves leaving - an empty cage. Neat!


After the interval Terry introduced a little-seen Street magician - Peter Wardell (photo). I caught him briefly when he won the Macmillan International Close-up Magician of the Year Award in 2001 but on this occasion his pitchman, market-place act transferred beautifully to the stage. Walking on, assembling his trestle, table, decoration and other items much as he would in the open air, he launched into a superb performance that included the obligatory Street magician's classic - the cups and balls. What can I say? Not only did he present this oft-seen routine better than a hundred other interpretations I have witnessed, but he was very, very funny. He also presented the Slydini silks, again in a manner that exclaimed pure professionalism. This was a performance honed in a thousand market-places all over the world, (including countries where they don't understand English!) and he is a master of the funny line, both planned and ad lib as well as many sight gags in his routine. How many of us have got a real roar when we push a wand through the bottom of a cup? Truly he had the audience, children and adults, exhausted with laughter and amazement with his final production of a melon under his hat bringing the biggest reaction of all.


What is it about street magicians? What is it we can learn from them? In recent times I have seen Whit Hadyn, Jeff Sheridan, Jim Cellini and now Peter Wardell and all of them give superb and entertaining magic performances. It must tell us the wisdom of repeated live shows, over and over again that ingrain into the performer an excellence that few seem to achieve. It was also true of Al Flosso, Charlie Edwards and Percy Press and on this occasion it was a privilege to see Peter Wardell and his outstanding magic.


Always close with a bang and who better to fill the stage than Guy Barrett and Company who has been in magic a long time (Betty Davenport remembers him as a boy in their shop) but who has now evolved a colourful and spectacular illusion show that has been performed internationally and won awards. Fast- moving, magical, the programme included many favourites including Zig Zag, multi-productions of his assistants and other illusions, interspersed nicely with good, visual front cloth effects like his excellent glass penetration. The Magic Circle stage is not large but Guy used the space in a very professionally produced programme that brought this latest show to a very successful conclusion.


It took over 30 people to create this latest and most successful Magic Circle venture including, artistes, producer, director, administrators, publicists, front of house hosts and hostesses plus a talented and experienced back stage team and a formula that has resulted in the best live magic show around to be seen at Christmas. The Magic Circle Christmas Show is surely on course to expand in 2003 to an even more ambitious production and if this year's offering is anything to go by, I suggest you book your tickets now.


John Derris, January 2003