Making A Magic Show – Part Two – Into The Magic Shop
A Blog Post By Greg
In the last part of my blog series about the work to prepare our magic series I talked about searching for old tricks in old magic books, and those have formed the basis of a lot of the effects which will be performed in the series – and indeed some of these have already been filmed.
Some of the effects in the series, however, will be based on more modern tricks, or require special equipment which I can’t make myself, which means a trip to the magic shop!
I know that both of the magic shops which I regularly use have really good websites, and I admit that most of the time I order from those because I know exactly what I want, it saves a journey, and a lot of the effects I will want to buy are in a warehouse and shipped directly from there, and so even if I visit the magic shop in person I will still end up ordering the majority of what I need online.
To clarify, therefore, it is significantly more convenient to order through the website of the store and get the effects through the post. In much the same way that it might be more convenient to stick a frozen pizza in the oven than it is to go out and get one from Felice’s Pizzeria in Turin which serves wonderful wood fired pizzas (can you tell I’m on a diet and may be thinking about food too much?). More convenient doesn’t necessarily mean better – it can also mean you miss something a little more special.
So on Wednesday, as I had an early show on the mainland and then a ferry home in the late afternoon, it seemed a perfect excuse to take myself to a little village just outside Southampton where one of my two favourite magic shops is located, The Merchant Of Magic.
Before going to the shop I had to do my prep work. This is all important for me when going to a magic shop, and even more so when I’m buying effects for a particular show, to make sure I have a clear list of what I want to buy, and a very clear budget. The real trick is to make sure that the total cost of the items on the list is much lower than the budget you have available… because I will want some extra in the budget for reasons I will come to shortly.
Armed with a list of items I wanted to buy for the series, I was ready for the shop. Entering the shop is like entering an Aladdin’s Cave, immediately you are faced with wonders – although how much each of these wonders will mean very much depends on how much you know about magic. Immediately I started to see effects and pieces which would have been bought instantly had my budget been a few hundred pounds higher.
What makes visiting a magic shop most special to me, and the reason for going to the ‘bricks and mortar’ shop instead of always ordering online, is the person behind the desk, and in The Merchant Of Magic this is Dominic.
I feel I ought to point out before I go any further that I have not been paid to write this post or anything like that. This is not an ‘advert’ or ‘review’ for the magic shop – just me being a little over-excited about getting to visit a magic shop for the first time in two years!
When I entered the shop, Dominic was busy with another customer. It wasn’t many moments before I hear the words “Have you seen…?”.
Every magic shop I have ever been in has been staffed by someone who genuinely enjoys magic – and in the case of Dominic he really seems to enjoy showing off every trick. He immediately called me over as well and performed a trick for both of us – under what are very difficult conditions. I don’t know the other customer, but he seemed to have at least a basic level of magical knowledge, and so the chances are that we would be looking exactly where we weren’t supposed to, seeing things we weren’t meant to see, and also, although not deliberately, pre-empting what might happen in that particular effect.
Taking a step back from the magic shop for a moment, this is one of the reasons why it is so useful that Felicity doesn’t want to know how my tricks are done. As far as possible I practice them without her seeing, and she has no real magical knowledge (except what has rubbed off from me over the years), and I always assume my audiences are likely to have a little magical knowledge anyway from having had a magic set as a child or something similar. The bottom line is that Felicity is a good gauge when I wonder whether the method of an effect would likely be spotted by anyone, or just by a magician. On the flip side of that she also provides an extra useful directorial voice.
On more than one occasion she has told me that although she didn’t know how a trick was done, that she saw the moment it happened because that was when my hand went into my pocket, or something looked awkward – and a lot of the time that wasn’t actually the moment the trick was done and it was just my natural movement. However, if a natural movement looks ‘dodgy’ to the spectator and they think they have seen how the trick is done (unless it is a deliberate red-herring and you later prove it not to be the case), then this move needs to be cut from the performance, and so having Felicity spot these things really helps.
Back to the magic shop, and watching the first effect I could see it was a nice effect, and I could see how it would fool people, but it wasn’t right for me and what I do. It was a nice ‘mind reading’ effect, and anyone who has seen my show knows that I like those, but it took movies as its theme, and that is not a theme which really connects with me on a deep level. It was, however, a nice little effect, well performed, and the first live magic I think I have seen someone else perform for well over a year, so it was an absolute joy to watch even if it wasn’t right for me.
We got to chatting about magic, and more effects came out – card tricks, tricks with poker chips, all sorts of everything. One of the amazing things I find about visiting the magic shops which I do, and the people who work there, is that no one seems to have told them that they are supposed to be selling the tricks – they just seem to enjoy performing them and talking about magic. When an effect grabbed me (and there were three effects I came away with which weren’t on my list to buy for the series) and I asked how much it was, there almost seemed to be a pause as he remembered he was in a shop and not just performing for fun as he looked to see how much it was. I finished up my purchases, getting some of the bits I needed for the series and making a note of what I still needed to order online, and reluctantly had to drag myself away from this little private show in order to get back in time for my ferry home. Even as I left Dominic mentioned another trick which he would have to show me next time!
In essence, the trip to the magic shop was exactly what a trip to a magic shop should be. I like performing magic, obviously, and I like learning about it, working on tricks and discovering new methods.
I also enjoy watching magic. It fills me with a sense of wonder and joy, I enjoy it when I can see the skill of the performer and the cleverness of the trick, and I particularly enjoy being fooled – and I mean, even just for a few moments, being deeply truly fooled. Having a trick performed on me where not only can I not immediately see how it is done, but where I can’t even begin to pre-empt where it is going. At least one of the effects in the magic shop gave me that feeling, and there was one specific moment where the impossible happened, and for a joyous moment the whole of physics seemed to make no sense. It is a feeling I always hope to impart on others, and it is a joy when it happens, a joy well worth taking the extra effort to come off of the internet and go into a bricks and mortar shop!
As I sit here surrounded by magic books, plans, new purchases and lists of things I still need (and thinking of one effect which I saw on the shelves in the magic shop, didn’t get, and then suddenly had an idea for which would work wonderfully in the series and wondering if I can squeeze the budget to accommodate it), I am more determined than ever to make this magic series a success – and the sign of success for me will be if I can bring that sense of joy, wonder and amazement to some of you in the same way that visiting the magic shop did for me.
Thank you all for reading, and hopefully I will see you at a live show soon!