Forget Paul Daniels. Get out of here David Copperfield. Allan Radcliffe meets the new breed of magicians who are more likely to dissect a rabbit than pull one out of a hat
sk most people what they think oi
magic. and you're likely to be greeted with sttot‘ls oi derision. The British public‘s perception of stage magic is still recoyering from the glittcr—l'estooned nightmare of spinning plates and disappearing rabbits that was The l’uu/ [Muir/s Show. whose prolonged run coincided with the rise and fall of" a certain unmissed female Prime Minister. When l)a\id Blaine spent 44 days stispended in a l’erspe\ bo\ near London's 'l‘ow er Bridge. the American illusionist‘s temporary home was regularly pelted with eggs. goll~ balls and paint bombs. (‘tll lo 2007 and the bickering panel on l‘c‘c‘c‘lll I'I‘V' Variety car crash Britain 's (in! Iii/(7H were icin unanimous in their hatred of magic. The
patronising triumyirate proceeded to gong oil
the tawdry parade ol‘ second-rate coniurers who
14 THE LIST FESTIVAL MAGAZINE
had the cl'lit‘ontct'y to dream ol~ a date with hcr ‘ Madge. '.-\tltiic‘llcc‘\ hayc moycd on.‘ says l’c‘lc‘ liirman. the gifted young magician whose irreycrent (‘hannel 4 series Dir/y I'm-As thrills and appals with foul language and scenes of ritual killing. ‘I just wonder what producing silk hankies from a sparkly bo\ means to my generation. ll 1 eat a packet of lit cigarettes or blend up a mouse. that’s something that you can't really watch passiyely. You're either disgusted or engrossed but you're in\ol\ed.'
\Vhile tnagic has perl‘ormed its own \anishing trick l'rom prime—time British teleyision. the art of entertaining audiences with seemingly impossible l‘eats continues to enjoy a robust liye follow ing around the world. .'\s l’irman suggests. magic perl‘ormancc is reiny'enting itsell‘ to accommodate sophisticated contemporary tastes. with great success. The elaborate. large-scale illusions of Penn & 'l‘cllcr. |)a\'id ('opperlield. and Siegfried & Roy are a lucratiye mainstay of |.as \"egas hoteis. while l'K audiences are in thrall to the psychological mind control and showmanship oi l)erren Brown. whose Something Hit'kt't/ I/Iis’ Hay ('omcs tour rapidly sold out. This rebranding and updating of magic has trickch down through the spit and sawdust clubs and cabaret bars all the way to the ‘hit and run‘ impromptu thrills of street magic.
While the Iidinburgh l‘ringe programme regularly l’eatures magic. illusion and hypnotism. perl'ormers tend to play up the incidental aspects ol‘ their acts. perhaps fearing that the threat oi a man in a top hat attetnpting to saw his scantily clad assistant in hall would be considered something ol‘ a turn-oil. 'l'he notoi'ious .lim " Rose ('it'cus Sideshow relied heayily on Tony Lee shock tactics for its appeal. with performers dangling heayy weights from body piercings. In recent years. outrageoUs stand-up and acclaimed magician Jerry Sadowit/ has successfully performed to intimate audiences ol’ around 30 people. though his skilled card tricks and sleight ol‘ hand haye been liberally interspersed with his trademark angry. close- to-the-knuckle humour.
Edinburgh-based magician Ian Kendall. a Veteran of lb years performing at the Fringe. including spots at the notorious late-night Bear Pit. striyes in his cabaret set to walk the precarious tightrope between l‘inely- honed magic and sustained comedy. Kendall regularly battles entrenched prejudice against magic when promoting his show around the capital in .-\tlgtls[. but generally succeeds in comerting the cynics to his cause. 'People‘s natural state is astonishment.' he says. ‘ll‘ you don't belieye that then _itist look at any