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45 entries from September 2008

Magic Festival Day 4 - the day I nearly suffocated to death

Today was all about 'Something About Needles & Razorblades' for me!

'Wizards of Aus' went great in both shows. The kids are really getting into the show and it's eclectic mix of style and effects is starting to work very well for the adults too.

Between the 11 and 2pm show though, Brendan and I made a rush into the city to buy more blood for the 'Razors' show - some of the effects require a specific blood type - and though the very expensive blood we bought is the right consistency, it's actually dark brown and not red.


I also got a new 'Needle' for a specific trick. The new needle works better than my original one, but the blood that came with it is pure food dye! Just by touching it my right hand was dyed bright red (and still is) despite being sprayed with my ultra-expensive protective spray as used in hospitals.

So.. I was preparing to do my show, with odd coloured blood, a red hand, then a big drop of blood fell on my pure white t-shirt. Nicholas Johnson tried his best to wash it off for me, but in the end I had to wear my t-short backwards.

So.. on with the show... and as soon as I walked out I saw of few of my poker buddies in the audience.

Razors went well, quiet crowd, but I'm used to that. I did a new intro that worked quite well and set up the premise slightly differently. Then went into the hand-in-the-trap bit.. that's still not working theatrically.

Now can 'Saw' and the thread in the neck got a good reaction. (Hooray!) And it was time for 'Needle Thru Arm'. The effect worked well, though the blood looked very fake, but it didn't get as strong as a reaction as it has in the past.

I did Fleshwound, which is a trick that works 30% of the time, the other 70% people just go "hmmmm".

Tonight was "hmmmmm"

And I did knife through finger, which didn't jam, but didn't elicit groans for some reason.

Never mind. Rings was next. Again I got through the routine but wasn't quite in the groove.

I wasn't worried though, because INSANITY was next and it killed, possibly best ever. I even had to send one volunteer back because he was only 13. Lucky I did as the beer bottle was under his paper bag.

Then I felt I was home and hosed and delivering a strong finish when, after being handcuffed, chained, and placed in a body bag with a plastic bag taped over my head, I couldn't escape.

Don't get me wrong, I did get out, eventually, but I didn't get out in time.

The music ended and I was still struggling to get out of the chains and rip the suffocating bag off my head. After about 2 minutes longer than it normally takes, I was finally able to emerge from the body bag, rip the bag off my head, and breathe again.

It was hard to finish on that note, but at least it was a unique experience for those in the audience. They may have attended Tim Ellis' last-ever show!

I can think of three people who'd be first in line to get tix to that one!  ;)

Magic Festival Day 3

What a day!

This morning I was woken by 'A Current Affair' looking for Nicholas Johnson (who was on JJJ radio at the time) because they desperately wanted him to appear on tonight's show. Eventually it was all sorted out.

And JJJ kept talking about the Dream Prediction last night. You can read their thoughts HERE.

At the Town Hall it was all frantic because we had SEVEN shows today. The first two were 'Wizards of Aus' the 11am was sold out, and the 2pm was almost sold out but by far the most enthusiastic audience we've had... or maybe we're just getting into the rhythm of the show.

We had to do some rigging for the Razorblades show, plus Sue-Anne had to race out to buy gaffa tape, and we had to go over the complex lighting, video, and riggin cues for the show all before Clow Wars started at 6pm.

Scamtastic was on at 7.30pm and we had to add extra chairs to cope with the demand for tickets.

Next up was MagiComedy at 8.30pm with Mat Unwin, Sue-Anne and Anthony DeMasi. I heard a lot of laughter from the dressing room, but I was too stressed out thinking about my show at 9.30pm to really relax and watch them.

MagiComedy finished at 9.25 and our turn around was rushed as we set for Razorblades, but we had the audience in at 9.48pm - we'lll do better tomorrow!

As for the show, it started off well with the Razorblade eating, but the crowd was very quiet. Later they all said they enjoyed the show, but really didn't know how to react. The trap trick was fine, the thread through the neck was good, but the Needle Thru Arm failed (again!) and Fleshwound was ok, but the knife through finger jammed and I couldn't get the blade open... aaaarrrghh!!! (I guess I wasn't too lucky tonight!)

The Rings was ok but clumsy but the show was totally redeemed by INSANITY and the chain escape at the end. The room was filled with palpable tension.

Tomorrow night we'll insist people sit in the front three rows only, and reblock one or two pieces and I'm sure it will be back on track.

That's the beauty of a Festival like this. Ticket prices are low and we can experiment, try different twists and tweaks night after night, finessing new ideas and polishing potential diamonds.

Not much time for sleep tonight... it's up early again tomorrow for two big 'Wizards of Aus' shows and then it's off to the city to buy better blood! (I think my stock from earlier this year has congealed!)

The honest conman in The Age today

Nicholas Johnson was on JJJ Breakfast radio this morning and apparently the presenters, who were at The Catchpenny Club last night, have been talking magic non-stop. They even asked listeners to call in to try to figure out how my Dream Prediction was done! It was a great promo spot for The Magic Festival and Nicholas said everyone is really buzzing about the magic.

You can also read all about Nicholas Johnson in today's AGE, or see the story online HERE.

(Plus, you may even see him on TV tonight at 6,30pm...)

Magic Festival Day 2

The days are getting longer... after a very early start to drive down to Bunnings to unsuccessfully try to buy a bigger pulley for chain that we use in the 'Razorblades' show, we headed in to the Town Hall and did our 11am and 2pm performances of 'The Wizards of Aus' (you can even read a review of yesterday's 2pm performance here at 'The Groggy Squirrel')

Following that we did some quick post-mortems of the show, rehearsed with Mat for his (very funny) bits in tomorrow night's 'MagiComedy' and tried to solve a few technical problems at the guys from 'Clown Wars' set up.

We got to sit in a watch their show at 6pm and the clowning was very strong and well received by the audience (especially the kids). The show is really starting to take shape and with a director's eye will become brilliant kids entertainment. The kids already love it, but once it gets really will be sensational!

As soon as 'Clown Wars' was over we had 30 minutes to set up for 'The Catchpenny Club'. I didn't get to see many of the acts as both Sue-Anne and myself were on the bill - Sue-Anne opened the show with her Austin Powers Rings and Blues Brothers Rope Routine, and I closed it with a Dream Prediction, D'Cups & D'Balls, and Runaround Sue (which I haven't performed in ages so I was thrilled at the response it got - especially from non-magicians!)

The house was pretty much full, and along with sideshow performers and a very funny comedian, were magicians Jason Varga, Dwayne Robbins, and of course Nicholas J Johnson himself. It was one of the best Catchpenny Clubs so far and almost everyone was saying they'd be back to catch more shows during the Magic Festival!

Magic Festival Day 1

Just back from the first day - two performances of our 50 minute 'Wizards of Aus' show - and I'm already worn out, but I have some more rehearsals to do before going off to do a 9pm corporate show...

Our first show was filled with the usual batch of surprises - Sue-Anne broke a second buckle on her straitjacket (she broke one yesterday at 'Hi Vibes') so I raced off to Juggleart and bought a new one. Unfortunately, it was a completely different design may take her a few days to master, so she's patched up the old one a little and got away with it fine in the second show.

It was great that Mat came along today as well and he gave us some notes that resulted in the second show being 100% on the first one. It's really good having that extra eye who knows your vision and isn't afraid to be completely honest with you.

Brendan was there too doing AV for the first time ever. He handled the lights well and ran sound from his computer. Again, second show ran much more smoothly from his point of view as he became more familiar with the tricks of the trade.

It's interesting how such tiny details can change a show. Some of the little gags I threw in were just a little too abstract for most of the audience, but after a quick brainstorm between the four of us, they were restructured and the audience understood exactly what I was on about the second time around.

For those interested, here are the "bare bones" of the show:

  • Ellis and Webster enter through a laser tunnel and perform a 'Dancing Hanky' themed opening routine.
  • Diminishing Cards/Expanding Cards

  • What's Next?

  • Ladder from briefcase

  • Handcuff Ecape/Transformation

  • Straitjacket Escape

  • Sword Box of Doom (Perdentes)

  • Balls from mouth/restored newspaper

  • Rising Card

  • Dorothy and the Magic Munchkin

  • Audience Levitation

  • Linking Rings

Taking it to the street

We just got back from the 'Hi Vibes' festival at Northcote where Sue-Anne, Lee Cohen, Nicholas Johnson and I were doing a little cross-promotion handing out flyers for 'The Melbourne Magic Festival'.

I tried a few little things to grab a bit of attention: I did my rope tie escape in a plastic bag in the street (got a crowd once I entered the plastic bag), I tried the rope escape tied to a traffic light (got virtually no attention at all, but it was fun), and I tried doing some living statue work (got heaps of attention!).

Sue-Anne performed her straitjacket escape twice, once on a big stage in the town hall, and then again in the street where - once she bagan the escape - a lot of people stopped to watch.

Lee Cohen, dressed as Trixie, did an excellent job of handing ot hundreds of flyers. Her character and confidence seemed to draw people to her and take the brochures.

Nicholas took a different approach to promoting his show. He set up a little table and started showing me the pea & shell game and, sure enough, someone stepped up claiming to know where the pea was. Nicholas worked that guy and within a few moments there were 40 people watching. Nicholas concentrated on playing with this guy, while offering occasional asides to the crowd, and just before the grand finale he handed out flyers to everyone. The great part was, they were now all "good leads". People who had shown an interest in Nick's scam and were likely to come see the full show.

It was a lesson in street magic and intelligent patter. Nick worked the crowd like a musical instrument and, after they all left but two small children, Nick did a trick for them which rebuilt a fresh crowd and out came the pea and shell.

I had to go but for all I know he's still there working non-stop!

That's the main aim of 'The Australian Institute of Magic' and our Festival - to learn from each other - and you never stop learning in this business!

Their herbs and spices are not their only secret!

Okay, first watch this ad for KFC, then continue reading:

Last night, after a day of rehearsals, bumping in to the Northcote Town Hall so we're ready for tomorrow's first 'Wizards of Aus' show, and doing a show in Wantirna, I stopped off at the Boronia KFC to grab a quick something hot to eat. I chose a Twister Meal Deal.

The drink was fine, the chips were okay, but when I bit into the Twister I actually tasted ice.

At first I thought they took "Iceberg Lettuce" way too seriously, but on closer examination I discovered it was actually the "chicken" fillet that was icy cold.

Now as you just heard the cook from KFC say, on national TV, "our chicken is delivered fresh, not frozen" so I have no idea how an otherwised cooked fillet could actually be covered in tiny particles of ice.

Perhaps, if we were to assume the KFC people were getting "creative" with the words "not frozen" and instead actually meant "frozen", then perhaps I could explain what happened: The cook put the fillet in the microwave, thought he or she had pressed the button but hadn't, waited the prerequisite seconds for the piece to heat up, the slopped it straight into the delicately assembled Twister.

I can accept that KFC cooks might find the task of pushing a button somewhat challenging. I can accept that, to their trained hands, a frozen fillet probably feels the same as a hot one...

But KFC "delicers their chicken fresh, not frozen" so how on earth was I lucky enough to get a meal that had the bonus effect of being an icy chicken flavoured dessert wrapped in salad?

Last night's gig

Had to cut rehearsals short and head off to a gig last night in the city. Just an hour of strolling magic for a group of CPAs. Funny bunch though... there they all are in a pulsing, throbbing nightclub, dancing, mingling talking... and every now and then I'd spot on or two sitting silently at a table in the corner waiting for the whole ordeal to end. One was even sitting at the end of a table reading a book. He actually did look up from his pages while I performed for a group near him, which was nice, and then went back to his private world of solitude.

Anyway, though the gig went fine, I got tricked as well. Usually I can find a park on the street in the city, but this time it was just packed, so I resorted to a parking station. I saw a few offering 'Evening Parking $10', but when I spotted this one I thought it seemed better value as I was only going to be there for just over an hour.


On return I was charged $12... so I checked the sign a little closer... magicians are really easy to fool...