Damien on… Magic Finally Revealed
Ten years ago, four TV specials aired, featuring a mysterious Masked Magician (actually, Val Valentino) who revealed how a lot of large – and some small – illusions were DONE. The hype went on about how he had received death-threats from other magicians and so on – but in reality, he was no rat. He knew exactly what he was doing.
The truth was that nearly all of the illusions featured were OLD ones from the SEVENTIES, which no reputable magician would still have had as part of his act. And when the Masked Magician finally revealed himself at the end of the fourth show, he gave a long speech where he pointed out that magic had been dying on its arse until these specials had revived interest in the whole genre.
This was true and I’m sure that most magicians would – at least secretly – have acknowledged it. Back in those Seventies, the camp style of the time had been a golden age for magic, but by the cynical, post-ironic Eighties, magic had hit an all-time LOW.
However, since Val blew the lid off, magic has gone from strength to strength.
Many new, young magicians have hit the scene and taken the science to extremes which those hacks in the Seventies could not have DREAMED of. Of course, the basics of magic are still used (the Masked Magician was careful not to reveal too many of THOSE) but the presentation has surpassed all the campery of thirty years ago.
However, there is one aspect of these revelations that has been overlooked.
When we see a trick performed, the entertainment comes from the SURPRISE. Magic’s strength is not its ability to PUZZLE. People do not LIKE being puzzled – which explains some of the public antipathy towards it. “How did you DO that?” “Very well.” (Smugbastard). No, the thing people like about magic is its power to SURPRISE.
Once a trick has been performed, it is often possible to work OUT how it was done, anyway. But a magic show consists of a series of tricks performed in quick succession – thus giving the audience no TIME to start thinking about how something was done, because the next trick is beginning.
But once the show is over, the thrill is gone – and has been replaced by PUZZLEMENT. And that puzzlement leads to frustration and finally ANNOYANCE. But if the secret is REVEALED, even if it turns out to have been mundane, we are SATISFIED. Indeed, if the secret is as fascinating as the illusion – as with Penn & Teller’s “truck trick” – we are as entertained by the reveal as we were by the trick itself.
Of course, one can see why the magicians of old would have been OUTRAGED at people like Penn & Teller – and HORRIFIED by the Masked Magician. In those days, acts would tour – unchanged – for YEARS. And young magicians cut their teeth on the old masters’ tricks.
But things have changed. These days, ALL aspects of The Business are disposable. Comedians do a tour, then sell it on DVD. The next year, they tour again with all-new material. And so it is with magic. Modern magicians have to continually strive for new, ever-better tricks – and the hacks are reduced to doing shows in old people’s homes where half the audience doesn’t know where they ARE.
And today, the Masked Magician is BACK – this time, with a SERIES.
He is ten years older now (and a bit porked up). But I for one welcome him. I too am older – and I STILL want to know how all those OTHER tricks from my youth were done!