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Forming a performance

So far, in the thirty plus years that I have been into magic and the almost ten years that I have been performing professionally, I have not been able to come up with new effects. There are a lot of magicians who focus on coming up with new tricks and effects and, whilst I am highly imaginative and creative, that just doesn't seem to be an area of magic that I focus on.

Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't be opposed to the idea of coming up with a new effect. If I happen to get a 'eureka' moment, I certainly wouldn't keep it to myself.

There is, however, another area of magic that I do focus on and that is coming up with performances.

I play around with existing tricks and props all the time, finding new ways in which I could perform with them. Magicians buy tricks all the time and they usually come with a performance tutorial, which is well and good, but to my mind there are some tricks that could sometimes use a little finesse. Of course, there is no rule that says a magician has to perform a trick a certain way and we all come up with our own routines, as we should.

For example, there is quite a popular coin trick among magicians. One shows a two pence piece and a ten pence piece. The two pence piece is put in the hand, taken from the hand and placed in the pocket only to appear in the hand again. The same goes for the ten pence piece. The known performance is basically the same thing over and over again, taking a coin, placing it in the pocket and it reappears in the hand.

Now, there is nothing wrong with that performance. I've performed it and it gets reactions. But, to me, it always seems to lack something. It's not very exciting to me - to watch or to perform.

So, I recently sat down with the trick and played around with it for many hours until I came up with something. Just to recap, this isn't me changing anything to do with the how the trick is done, it's done exactly the same way. This is me simply forming a performance, a new performance.

The known finale of the trick has the magician showing both coins in their hand and closing a fist. They take either one of the coins and place it in their pocket. Then the hand is opened to reveal it is empty.

But, I thought - wouldn't it be good if one coin could be placed in my pocket and the other coin appears in my wallet, which has been in full view the whole time? Furthermore, what if the coin was signed by a spectator beforehand?

Obviously, I cannot reveal the ins and outs of how I came up with these new methods, but after many hours of experimenting, I did come up with a way in which to have the final coin signed, placed in the hand, vanish and reappear within a sealed envelope in my wallet. I tested this new performance out and it left the audience completely speechless.

So, how can a magician form a new performance?

Let's say it's a magic trick that has been bought from a magic shop and has come with a tutorial performance. Firstly, decide on whether the performance you learn works for you and your style. If it does then that's great, if it ain't broke...etc. If you find that the performance maybe needs your own personal touch, here's what I do -

Take all the parts of the trick and place them on a table in front of you. Sit yourself down and take a while to analyse exactly what it is you have got. Consider what these parts can do and consider the different ways you could use them.

Next - think about the performance you already have. Think about where it might need improving. Think about how you want it to end and try to work backwards. For instance, with the coin trick, I decided that I wanted to have one of the signed, vanish and reappear in my wallet. So, I simply placed the coin in the wallet (the finishing move) and retraced my steps, asking myself -

How does the wallet work?

How do I usually make items appear inside?

Which hand does the coin need to end up in before the wallet?

How do I get the coin into that hand?

And so on.

I'll admit, I was lucky with this particular trick as it is relatively easy compared to other tricks - as is the workings of the wallet, etc - so in this case it only took me a few hours to come up with something. However, this is always how I have done it and it cane takes days, weeks, etc. Totally worth it for the result though.

Paul Daniels had a great video on YouTube about forming a performance with the most basic of tricks. Take a look.

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