December 2018 Chatter

Posted at 30/11/18 - 03:20 PM

The pace of change in modern day living is often cited as being almost too fast. No sooner have we got used to computer software working in a particular way, for instance, than the developers ‘improve’ it and suddenly we have to learn it all over again. Car design, home electronic goods, even the way we actually shop and go about our daily lives, all these things seem to be endlessly altering and changing.

So given all this, why is it that the magic that some performers have in their act, seems frozen in time? Why is it that when the media want an image to illustrate magic or magicians, they will still often revert to pictures of rabbits in hats and tail coated magicians holding canes? Why do some magic dealers still sell effects which have not been current in plot or theme for decades?

Of course, you can’t generalise and say that magic never moves on, because clearly there are many examples where the art has progressed and has remained as interesting to the modern audience as it ever was, but there are still some areas of our craft that appear to have stagnated.

In some ways you could say that ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, and that just because something has been around for a long time it doesn’t automatically mean that it is now defunct. And I agree with that. I know for a fact that there are some tricks that I use in my current strolling repertoire that I have been doing for over 40 years! But those effects don’t have outdated patter or presentations, as these I have gradually changed over time to suit the modern spectator.

But there are other tricks which have a built in obsolescence. Pavel’s Colour Changing Records, for example. I know vinyl is making a comeback, but even so I can’t imagine anyone thinking that the original trick has much relevance today.

While it should be relatively easy to spot an outdated trick, plot lines and especially patter can easily remain long past their sell by date. Sexist patter is still quite often used by magicians when dealing with female spectators, for instance, and while I would argue that it has actually never been particularly clever or acceptable, it is even less so now.

And what about gags? Topical gags are great when they are just that - topical - but it’s all too easy to leave time sensitive references in the patter that gradually have less and less relevance. Mentioning catch phrases from popular TV programmes, or making jokes about people who are currently in the media and therefore high on everyone’s radar, works initially, but can quickly sound outdated if you leave them in for too long.

Moving with the times in terms of your magic material is therefore, I would suggest, important if you wish to remain popular with modern audiences. Having a critical think about the routines that you use and the patter that goes with them could be a worthwhile exercise, and it may be that you discover that actually you are OK and don’t need to change very much.

But it might be that when you come to look at the overall picture of what you do, you realise that there are some elements of your act which need attention. Making the necessary changes will help you to remain relevant to your audiences.

Author: Mark Leveridge

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