The Halloween Spooktacular is now over, and it was truly an exhausting event! I can honestly say that having performed a 2 hour illusion show with 60% brand new material on a stage that was way to small… every show we do from now on will be an absolute breeze! Take a look at just some of the debris we unloaded from our vans into, what was, our empty studio at 3am this morning!
The venue, the Templestowe Memorial Hall, could only allow us access from 1pm, and even then, we couldn’t use the main hall, just the meeting room. That was fine with us as we had to set up the ‘Haunted Corridor’ in that room. Due to it being a council-run venue, the group who met each week in the hall arrived and explained they normally use the meeting room for their classes. After some sweet-talking from Mat they very kindly agreed to hold their class in the main hall while we bumped the gear into the meeting room. Michael Sullivan arrived and with Lee & Cheryl Cohen, and they assisted Mat, Sue-Anne and I with the massive bump in. Les Cohen also arrived during the bump in and we were all flat out setting up a cemetery, a witches coven and all sorts of creepy scenes.
By 4pm we were able to move into the main hall and our lighting guys arrived too. So now I was setting up the show, Mat was hooking up the PA he’d brought, Sue-Anne was co-ordinating the Haunted Corridor and Michael and the Cohens were helping out all over the place. Chaotic, but we were slowly getting there. Kikkii the Klown even popped in to say hi, and Tim You joined her to set up their ‘Trick and Treat’ magic stand.
5pm and I discovered I’d left a crucial piece of our levitation behind. Sue-Anne insisted on going back as she said there was no way we were not going to try out that particular illusion. So she jumped in the van and made the half-hour trip back home, using the time as an opportunity to freshen up and get made up – as the facilities at the hall were non-existent at best.
5.30pm and Jade and Curt had arrived to prepare for their roles in the corridor, along with Lee’s sister Sharon. They jumped in and gave a hand setting up the seats… it was then we discovered another crucial problem. When booking the hall I was told it seated 120. So we sold 120 tickets. However, there were only 100 seats in the building! With some fast thinking by the ever-resourceful Mat Unwin (who by now was running on straight adrenaline and burning through it real fast!) made some phone calls and found 20 chairs 15 minutes down the road at a Church he used to go to. He and Michael grabbed the rental van and took off to pick them up.
6.30pm and Sue-Anne had returned, but our plan of a 6pm tech run was way out the window. I was still setting up the show, the Corridor people were making final touches, and Jade was doing a pizza run.
7.30pm, only half an hour until show time and people were already gathering outside the hall as I was finally having a chat with our lighting guy explaining in extreme shorthand the multitude of cues and various states we were hoping for.
Mat Unwin hd now transformed himself into our hunchback servant “Igor” and took Ben Whimpey from Orsino Images on a test-run of the Haunted Corridor tour. Enzo Ficcohad arrived and assumed his ‘Phantom of the Opera’ identity while Michael Sullivan was now in full make-up as ‘Dracula’. Meanwhile, I was still in the guise of sloppy, sweaty, and partially exhausted mess.
THE HAUNTED CORRIDOR: 8pm and the time arrived to open the doors. Igor and I were going to take turns in guiding people through the Corridor, but he was doing such a great job in the role I twisted his arm and he conducted all of the tours.
As people who were lined reached the foyer I, in the role of the ‘Master’, organized them into groups and set the scene for what they were about to experience. Guests ranged from casually cocky to really, really nervous, having no idea of what they were getting themselves into. Because we had 120 people to move through the Corridor in less than an hour, the tours where by necessity quite brief – but effective.
As people were waiting to go inside, Igor would burst through the doors (which was scary enough for some!) and hustle them into a darkened room. Inside they saw a small scene complete with hovering holographic ghosts making all sorts of ghoulish remarks.
Igor quickly took them into the next room, where a cemetery was filled with gravestones of great magicians of the past. Suddenly a ghostly figure dressed in white walked through the group and into the cemetery. She was carrying what appeared to be a baby in her arms and placed it upon a tombstone. The baby turned out to be a doll of some kind, with the back half of its head missing. It sat up on the gravestone and started moving, looking around. As it did this, it’s “mother” turned to face us revealing dead eyes, a stitched up mouth and blood, slashes and burn marks all over the front of her beautiful white dress. Igor wisely told everyone to move on to the next room.
Once inside lights suddenly came on blinding everyone. In an instant they went to black and there was a scream. A strobe came on revealing a man in a blood-spattered apron holding an axe and a dismembered arm… that was still moving. He offered everyone a ‘hand sandwich’ while his victim cowered on the floor with a bloody stump of an arm and a hook through his back. The lights went off and Igor quickly moved everyone on.
In the next room there was a headless man, with his chattering head tuck under his arm. Apparently a ‘victim’ of the Master. He gave everyone warnings to be very, very careful. Also in the room was a bubbling cauldron and a witches broom, and a coffin sitting on a trestle table. Igor invited a brave soul to open the coffin and look inside to see if ‘Oswald’ was there. As they went to open the coffin something grabbed their legs provoking sometimes extreme reactions! (Which we hope to have on tape thanks to infra-red video!) After that fright they were sent on there way and into the ‘Infernal Theatre’ were they were entertained by The Phantom and Dracula with close up magic, while they had the chance to buy souvenirs and goodies from ‘Trick or Treat’.
SHOW TIME: Finally, a few minutes after 9pm, the show started. Why the delay? Well the backdrop for the show was constructed from some of the walls of the Haunted Corridor! So while people were taking their seats in the audience a busy team of workers were frantically engaged in some on-stage construction.
The theatre itself was dressed in lighting, with fire effects projected up the walls and ceiling. However, due to the ceiling fans in the hall not working and it being an abnormally hot night… it truly was an inferno. (Though some audience members who got to come up on stage said it was nothing compared to the temperature we had to endure… especially Igor in his hessian, and Sue-Anne in her PVC).
WAKING THE DEAD: The curtains opened on Act One to reveal of large aluminum roadcase. Igor entered and turned it around summoning the Master and Mistress to start the show, The Master emerged and said the Mistress was still inside. Igor lifted the sheet that acted as a door and took a look, but it was empty. The Master said she was down stairs and went back inside to go get her. After much moving around the Mistress looked out and spoke to Igor in a very masculine sounding voice. It was obviously the Master in disguise and Igor called for the Master to return. She went back inside and a few moments later the Master looked out. Igor wasn’t convinced and finally he managed to get the “Mistress” to step out of the box. She claimed the Master was still inside but Igor showed the box was empty and suggested the Master was probably closer than we think! He ripped off her disguise, and it was the Mistress. Seconds later the Master stepped out of the box and scolded Igor for undressing his wife. They exited the stage leaving a very confused Igor to take the box away. This was the first time we’ve tried this illusion and, though it needs a little more work the presentation seemed to be very well received.
DIAMONDS: Sue-Anne’s solo number was up next with a flaming torch that changed into a cane, the appearance of a white silk that came to life and danced for her before turning into a sparkling ball. Next she multiplied the balls in a routine that included an extremely clean and deceptive ball vanish. Finally, one of the balls seemed to disintegrate into a silver snowstorm filling the stage. This was the first time Sue-Anne had ever performed this routine, and she only got it together a week or so ago.
KRUGER KARD TRICK: I was up and did one of my original effects, the Freddy Kruger Card Stab. A jumbo card was chosen by a spectator and shuffled back into the deck. I caused one card to rise in this “dream trick”, but it wasn’t the chosen card. As I explained that “sometimes a dream can turn into a nightmare” I put on a Freddy Kruger glove and caused a second card to rise from the deck. Again it was the wrong card. I insisted that the spectator name his chosen card and threw the deck into the air where I slashed at the cards and they all fell to the ground in pieces except for one, the chosen card, which was impaled on a blade of the glove.
FLOATING TABLE: Sue-Anne returned and put on a Hogwarts robe as she spoke of how magicians learned their magic. She lit a candle with her fingertips, which then seemed to disintegrate into nothingness. As a finale, she caused the table on stage to rise and float around with no visible means of support, all to the accompaniment of the theme from Harry Potter.
MEMORIES: I was back with something brand new. I asked a spectator from the audience to think of a childhood memory. Then, gradually, I seemed to read his mind and describe every detail of that memory. Many people would have sworn that it was a set-up, but no, I had never met the person before and certainly had no idea of what he was going to be thinking of. I did find out later that some people at the back couldn't quite hear what I was saying during this piece. We may have had some kind of microphone problem.
SQUASH: To change the pace I announced I was going to do an illusion and called for Sue-Anne, but Igor wanted to assist. Despite Igor’s best attempts (and a very tatty blonde wig) Sue-Anne turned up just in time to be squashed to only 20 centimetres tall.
THE WORLD'S MOST DANGEROUS CARD TRICK: Sue-Anne took over next and invited a volunteer up on to the stage for another brand new effect. The gentlemen just happened to be our next door neighbour Barry! He chose a card and Sue-Anne explained he was going to find it, using a gun. His first attempt at shooting the card out of the case failed as he missed the cards and hit the table, ripping the table cloth in the process. He got a little closer on his second shot, hitting a rose in a vase on the table, but his third shot hit Igor in the wings. Finally, he hit the deck on his fourth attempt and the whole table collapsed revealing the five of clubs. Unfortunately, he chose the four of clubs. No problems. Sue-Anne took the gun, shot the centre pip off the card and it became the four of clubs. Nice debut performance of this classic effect!
MATRIX SPOONS: I entered next and yes…. I messed up… even though we had set lists all over the place backstage I skipped a trick and didn’t realise until I started the music. (We had no sound operator for this show. I ran the music by remote control thanks the the ‘Virtual Sound Man’, while Mat was operating the mics.) Anyway, I put the show on pause, ran off and changed jackets and presented my new ‘Matrix’ version of the spoon bend. However, the moment was gone and it goes back to the drawing board.
TOAST & WHAMMO: So we moved on to two of our most popular routines, the Magician’s Toast and The Great Whammo. Basically, we got a volunteer up to drink a toast with us. Lots of magic happens including ‘Soda Resurrection’, and finally we reveal him to be famous children’s magician ‘The Great Whammo’. With the aid of a very loud jacket (and Sue-Anne’s arms) he gives a spectacular and hilarious display of magic.
SWORD BOX: We finished off Act One with a brand new version of the very first illusion I ever performed. (Yep, another debut!) In this presentation I introduced our guest artists, Illusionists ‘The Boners’ with their antique Ninja Sword Cabinet. Igor rushed on to tell me they hadn’t shown up so I raced off to try to find them. Meanwhile, Igor was left alone on stage. I told him to sing a song and he shocked everyone with a beautiful unaccompanied version of Ave Maria. Finally, I yelled that ‘The Boners’ had arrived and Igor introduced them. Of course, it turned out to be Sue-Anne and I in bad disguises trying to present the sword cabinet with anything we could lay our hands on. I clambered into a cardboard box while Sue-Anne stuck 12 different objects through it ranging from mops and brooms to golf clubs and pool cues. Finally I emerged unharmed, but my clothes were ripped to pieces. The whole piece was very well received, and it was time for an intermission.
LINKING RINGS: Back from intermission and the curtains opened on a dark stage and I presented my robotic version of the linking rings, a trick I’ve been doing for almost 30 years now but it’s still a pleasure to do.
CARTOON LEVITATION: From there we went into another brand new piece. A newspaper article had promoted the show with a photo of Sue-Anne levitating me in front of the Templestowe Memorial Hall. We only did the levitation for the photo, but some ticket buyers were ringing ‘Trick or Treat’ and booking for the show excited that they were going to see a levitation. So I redesigned our levitation and we came up with a ‘Cartoon Heroes’ presentation (all in less than a week!) so we could keep these people happy. It went surprisingly well! We got a volunteer up from the audience and had them lie on a trestle table. As the song progressed I removed both trestles supporting the table and Sue-Anne kept our volunteer (who happened to be Sue-Anne’s combat instructor from the gym!) suspended in mid-air.
SWITCH: Following this Sue-Anne performed her ‘Do As I Do’ rope effect (the one she deuted in America in May for her extended Jeannie act) with a completely new twist. She had two men up on stage with her and they danced along with her as they al performed rope tricks together… well, Sue-Anne did most of the rope tricks, but they did try! The act concluded with all three ropes turning into one long rope.
ESCAPE TRIBUTE: Igor and I came out with a big table covered in apparatus next and, as a tribute to Houdini, we were all going to do an escape together. Sue-Anne was strapped into a straitjacket, I was handcuffed, tied with 100’ of rope and taped inside a plastic garbage bag, and Igor was lock into a Chinese Finger Trap. As expected, Sue-Anne and I freed ourselves from our bonds at exactly the same time (which was pretty amazing to us as by then we were all dripping in sweat!) Igor, unfortunately, failed to get out of his finger trap. I suggested he should grab the knife from off stage and cut it off… he misunderstood and returned free from the trap but missing a finger.
6 CUPS: Now it was time for something very risky. I asked six people who were willing to face their fears, take a chance on the roll of a die, put their faith in fate, to join me on stage. After a minute or two, six brave souls with no idea of what they were getting themselves into were up on stage with me. I gave them each a polystyrene cup and asked them to smash it with the palm of their hand onto the table. They did. Then I took a wineglass and smashed it (yes, some glass went on the floor, we can fix that for next time). I placed the jagged remains of the glass under a cup and mixed it around the five others until no-one, including myself, had any idea where it was, I invited fellow magician David Birchall to step forward and roll a die. Whatever number came up, that person was to step forward, trusting that the wine glass was not under their cup, and slam their hand down on it. I had no idea how this would play. Would people trust me? Would they assume that I wouldn’t let any harm come to them? Or would they simply refuse to do something so foolishly dangerous? They did it! It was a very tense 3 minutes but each person stepped forward, filled with an adrenalin rush, and slammed their hand down crushing their cup. Perhaps they thought I had somehow slipped the broken glass out by sleight of hand… maybe that explains the audible gasp when the last person left lifted their cup and revealed the wine glass.
ULTIMATE BLADES: As the relieved, though strangely empowered, volunteers left the stage, I explained that the one thing many people fear most is the end of a relationship. I sat down on the table with a photograph of a girl, and a pack of razorblades. It appeared as though I was about to slit my wrists, but instead I sliced up the photo… and swallowed the blade. I didn’t die. I took another blade, sliced the photo, and swallowed it too. Eventually I had swallowed 5 blades which I fished out using a piece of thread. But only four came out. I reached into my mouth and recovered the missing blade. I looked at the photo, took the blade and pressed it forward to my wrist… blackout.
Silence… for about 20 seconds before someone started clapping. What a weird reaction… well it certainly was not my usual razorblade presentation but some people came up afterwards to say they really enjoyed that version.
SAWING IN HALF: Sue-Anne returned to thank our army of helpers and announce that we were going to finish our show with a grand illusion. I rushed back on and insisted on an escape instead. We called on the audience to vote and I got ONE PERSON wanting to see my escape (it was great!) while Sue-Anne had the entire audience calling for her illusion. Regardless, I announced myself the winner and Igor began setting up the escape. We invited a gentlemen up on stage to examine the table (
Doing a public show like this is extremely hard work for everyone involved, and we’d also like to thank the people who stayed behind into the wee hours to help us pack everything back into the vans, stack all of the chairs and mops the floors. (With special mention to Ben Whimpey, Lee Cohen, Enzo Ficco, Michael Sullivan, Anne and Tom Raybould, Barry and Jeanette, the Cohens, the Trick or Treat team, and especially Mat Unwin).
If you were in the audience we hope you enjoyed yourself. Drop us a line by clicking on the word ‘comments’ below. A lot of the routines in the show were brand new and we’d love to get your feedback on what you thought worked, or how something could be improved. And thanks again for coming… it wouldn’t have been the same without you!
(Hopefully we'll get a photo gallery of the show up very soon!)