There are 35 Australians attending the FISM. (More if you count Andrew Wimhurst, Nelson, Andy Sellenger and David Kaplan). Sue-Anne snapped a pic of some of them who were lucky enough to get front row seats in the Close Up Competition today.
Left to right you can see David Jones, Peter Rodgers, Steve Walker, Dave Kaplan and Bill Walsh. (All looking a little weary after lining up so long to get in!)
Today's activities began at 9.00am with the Stage Competition (and a few more acts used taped introductions), while other registrants attended lectures by Tim Star, Gaetan Bloom, and Gazzo, or the Jeff McBride Masterclass, Cheating and Gambling, or the Paul Potassy Talk Show hosted by Wittus Witt.
After lunch it was a choice between more Close Up Competition (with more gambling themed acts) or Paul Daniels Max Malini Show.
After the competition Boris Wild and I did an interview for a FISM TV special (which may even go to air in Australia one day!) and then we got organised to see the Close Up Gala Show while another batch of registrants went into Victoria Hall to see the Gala Stage Show.
The Close Up Gala.... well, things began badly when some FISM official announced, as they were opening the doors, that it was 'free seating'. After people rushed in to get the best seats, people with tickets for the best seats started to show up and chaos ensued. FISM officials had to announce a mistake had been made and the show started fifteen minutes late (and with a bad atmosphere) as people had to reorganise their seating. Please note, this was the second night they have staged this show so there's no reason for this mistake to be made.
The compere, who's name isn't listed anywhere in the programme, kicked off the show by introducing Belinda Sinclair. She came on accompanied by singers, dancers and musicians and brought two audience volunteers up on stage with her. The following 20 minutes was not well received at all. As her singers sung, musicians played and dancers danced, she told lyrical tales and performed four ace effects, MacDonald's Aces, Three Card Monte and Matrix as allegories. One person told me it looked like a scene from a freaked out hippy party. Maybe it was not the best choice of material for the FISM crowd.
Add to that the fact that the camera work was shocking, with two cameras in use and the director constantly missing the action, and it made conditions very unpleasant for viewing close up magic. Even when they did shoot the right part of the table the lighting was so dim that you had to strain to see. Dim lighting seems to be a trademark of this FISM as the same is happening in the stage events too.
Tim Star followed and he performed a series of card effects that really didn't seem to be that strong at all. His final effect with aces was nice but he didn't seem to have the sort of personality that could carry across a room of this size (about 700 people!)
Lennart Green was next and he stole the show. Sensational and unbelievable card work and, by using the camera person as a volunteer he ensured the camera on the table was locked off and focused on the table at all times. His ability with a deck of cards is without peer. It's as if the cards are another part of his body. He received an enthusiastic standing ovation for his work. (A highlight being a matrix where he put regular size cards under normal coins and we couldn't see them underneath!)
Bob Sheets had to follow Lennart, a task any magician would hate, but he had the charm to carry it off. Bob did two tricks, a 5 card trick that ended up being a 1 card trick, and Cuba Libra which is way too big for "real" close up but a perfect choice for the Close Up Gala as everyone could see it without having to rely on the screens.
Michael Vincent was next and he was crucified by poor camera work. Every time he found the aces and dealt them on the table we had to take his word for it as the camera would inevitably be on his face at that time. The audience revolted during his act and started calling out camera instructions to the AV crew.
Finally we had Armando Lucero. A brilliant performer who got a great reaction despite a very underlit shot of his working surface. He performed his legendary matrix which looks like pure magic, and a thought of card appearing between two face up jokers. People who had seen Armando before said that he didn't perform as well as they'd seen him in the past but, given the mood of the room, I'm not surprised. People were really angry with the FISM organisers regarding the seating debacle and the camera work had only made them angrier. As we mingled in the foyer it was evident they were now turning their anger towards the standard of performances.
I did a brief poll asking people what they liked best and least about this FISM. Here are the results:
BEST - Seeing such a wide variety of competitors. Lennart Green and Juan Tamariz.
LEAST - Having to catch a train to go to the Bar Magic every night. The low standard of organisation, AV support and guest artist performances. Having to wait in line for the close up comp (and many other events as well). Having a whole night with nothing scheduled (last night).
Let's hope that our last three days see a whole lot more added to the 'BEST' list!
Oh, and booths have appeared in the foyer with countries campaigning to host FISM 2009. Vienna, Granada and China all offer professional booths with glossy brochures, videos playing, and some form of giveaways. Vienna and Granada have stickers. China has a goody bag with a key ring and a t-shirt for anyone who signs their table saying they'll support the China bid.
The majority of delegates I've spoken to so far say they will not attend FISM if it's held in China (for a variety of reasons) but the buzz is that China just may get the votes despite it. We'll find out on Friday.
PS: Here's an article from CNN on FISM.