A Treatise On Magic
A bonus blog post by Greg
This blog post, while mentioning one of our travels, is not a ‘travel blog’. It is something about the other part of my life, something which I felt the need to write and share, and something which didn’t seem to fit anywhere else…
I never used a wand when performing magic shows – I wasn’t that kind of magician. For as long as I can remember, performing magic, I worked on a simple theory and style of performance:
“The audience know I am using tricks. I know I am using tricks. Why not just admit that I am using tricks?”
This led to my persona when performing magic – I was a trickster, I was playing a game with you. My greatest joy performing magic was when I managed to leave you entertained and befuddled by what I knew to be a simple secret and a big risk taken on stage, to know that you had entered my game and I had ‘won’. Not, I should be clear, in an adversarial kind of way – my ‘victory’ only had meaning to me if it brought you joy – but it was a game clearly laid out at the start. I would usually admit in my patter towards the start of the show that ‘I’m going to keep lying to you all evening, it’s basically my job’.
Then, last year, things started to change. There was a big upheaval behind the scenes in my personal life (don’t worry, everyone is fine!) which left me for a few months in quite a difficult place psychologically. During this time a change started to come over my performing style, and my attitude, with one really odd symptom.
I stopped caring about applause.
This is an odd thing for a performer like me to say. As someone who is used to doing large outdoor shows the sound of applause was a great way to know I had done a good job, entertained a crowd. In the state of mind I was in, however, that suddenly felt a little bit hollow.
You see, false modesty aside, I know I am good at my job. In the situation where my job is to gather a big crowd, entertain them and gather applause at the end, I can do that. I have learnt over the course of more than a decade doing that kind of show how to build to an ‘applause cue’, to offer up subtle body language and ways of speaking that lead to applause. This sounds more cynical that it is – this wasn’t a planned and measured thing, it was something which naturally developed, but I knew it was there. I enjoyed the big shows, and I enjoyed the applause which meant I had done my job.
Suddenly, however, as I say, that was gone. I could still perform, and I could still get the applause, but now it felt empty. There was a crowd who enjoyed what I was doing, but I wasn’t feeling connected to them like I had before. Something had changed.
Between my bigger shows, I usually performed odd bits of magic here and there. As the applause seemed less important to me, however, I began doing more and more of the close-up magic, one on one, in what would normally be my breaks. It also became less and less about playing a game, about trickery, and more and more about finding a moment of ‘magic’. Finding a genuine connection with someone, and seeing a moment of awe – just a tiny moment where they forgot that we both knew it was a trick, and for a fleeting moment they lived in a world of pure magic again- flash across their face. That suddenly became the meaning in performing magic to me, and began to inform the way I performed more and more.
Fast forward to March this year. Felicity and I were in Whitby, a few days before the lockdown started in the UK. My friends in Italy were already in lockdown, and we were all getting daily reports of a growing death toll across the world.
From a more selfish point of view, I had just had my first show officially cancel, but the writing was on the wall – I could see that my shows would be cancelled for months to come, and my career and financial outlook were bleak in the foreseeable future, and I knew that many people would be facing similar prospects. Pandemic and recession were looming over us all.
Yet I was there, in the sunshine, with the most truly magical thing that has ever happened in my life, Felicity (in fact it was a running joke at our wedding two years ago that I had never performed a greater piece of magic than getting Felicity to marry me).
I told Felicity that weekend in Whitby that I didn’t want to ‘get through’ the next few months, I wanted us to come out in some way better that we went in. A big goal considering what the world was facing, and still is, but one which has helped me a lot more than just trying to get through.
I also wanted something else, and Felicity agreed that we would find the right one in one of the shops in town and that she would buy it for me.
It was time for me to get a magic wand.
The magic of Felicity, and the little reminders of magic in the faces of people as I had performed close up for them, had got me through hard times the previous year. I knew that going forward into what was to come that people wouldn’t need a ‘trickster’, and they wouldn’t need me to tell them that I’m going to ‘lie to them all evening, it’s basically my job”.
But they just might need a few magical moments. A few child-like seconds where the world is alive with possibilities, hopes and dreams. Felicity bought me a magic wand that day, in a little shop which also contained a number of mermaids, a good omen for us, and it felt right.
I don’t know what the future holds, I don’t know if one day the wand will be put on display and I will return to being a ‘trickster’ again. Right now I simply know that what I need, and what a lot of other people need, is a little bit magic in their lives. So for as long as it feels right, I will perform ‘magic’, and I will wave my magic wand, and see if we can all share some magical moments together!
If you’d like to see some of my magic, you can see my ‘(Almost) Live’ show on Sunday at 3pm here.
You can find out more about my magic performances at www.gregchapman.net
Stay safe, and, to borrow a phrase, ‘Stay Alert’ for the magical moments all around us.