For those who think the life of a magician is glamorous... well, it has it's highs and lows. Yesterday was another typical example.
I had to fly to Sydney to do a corporate Christmas party. They'd had a disappointing experience with a magician last year so they were only willing to spend as little as possible. (Last year they booked Matt Hollywood, and at the last minute he said he couldn't come and sent a colleague as his replacement. The magician they got cost the same and did 20 minutes of what they described as "kid's party magic"). So, from the beginning, the pressure was on.
Big plus, the show was at the spectacular Altitude Restaurant in the Shangri La Hotel with astonishing views over Sydney Harbour. Not so great was the fact they forgot to book me a room in the hotel and I ended up staying at the Holiday Inn down near Paddy's Markets instead.
As the show was in the restaurant, I didn't expect to have a stage, but I did ask for one thing - a radio lapel mic. Unfortunately, though the venue had a built-in sound system with a hand held radio mic, Staging Connections quoted them an astonishing $750 to provide a radio lapel mic for the night. Not surprisingly the client decided not to go with the quote and instead brought in a portable single-speaker PA that probably cost around $750 to buy. Normally an absolute no-no in these situations, but as it turned out on the night it worked perfectly. I was worried when we did the sound-check and the client said "Does it go any louder?" When I told her that was as loud as it would go without feedback she said "Oh, but people will be talking during your show."
Where to do the show was a challenge too. The room was a split-level, horseshoe shape with columns here and there so there was no one place in the room you could stand and be seen by everyone. A challenging situation to say the least. As it turned out, when I did the show I did my own introduction and encouraged everyone to move to where they could see me and they were most obliging. It transformed the atmosphere from a formal dining experience to that of a comfortable private party at home.
After the soundcheck at 6am I wasn't scheduled to perform until 9.20pm after the main course. (Even the client commented "You do a lot of waiting around don't you..") My private "dressing room" turned out to be a wobbly table in the kitchen corridoor. (A couple of hours later I got a chair as well.) So I went for a stroll down through Circular Quay and The Rocks before returning at 8pm for my dinner. One of the perks is that you, the performer, also get to enjoy the same quality meal the guests enjoy. (This doesn't always work though. Often, because we perform immediately after main course, the staff serve us after the guests, so we receive our meals a few minutes before we are due to go on. Unless, the venue is flexible with serving times as this one was, we usually don't get to eat at all).
As we approached 9.20pm and I finished loading my pockets eager to leave my corridoor, I received the news every performer hates... "We're running a little behind..." Now, the later the night, the drunker the guests and the harder the show is to perform. Late is not a good thing to be.
Eventually I went on at 9.50pm, 30 minutes late, and performed a full 45 minute show. I was planning my standard 30 minute show, but according to the contract the agent had written 45 minutes. Chatting to the client earlier they seemed flexible with show length but I could tell, after last year's experience, they were eager to receive value for money. During my stroll I'd purchased one or two extra magic props from the 7-11 and it was well worth the effort. With the exception of one person who sat with his back to me for the entire show (weird) everyone else was totally engaged and participated in the fun of the show. The client was delighted and I was pleased I'd restored her faith in magicians.
They say that half an hour on stage is as physically demanding as playing a full-game of football. It's also just as exhilirating, challenging and rewarding. As I slipped into a cab and headed back to my hotel I couldn't imagine a better way to spend my time.