Guest Blogger: Chris Wood
I started magic at around 14 working my way through the “Royal Road To Card Magic” and thence onto the “Encyclopaedia of Card Tricks” and “Expert Card Technique”.
When I was 17, I met Alan Alan who introduced me to a very young Michael Vincent and for the next few years I was extremely lucky to be mentored by Alan every Saturday afternoon alongside Michael and be introduced to a variety of high level performers such as Pat Page.
I had been particularly attracted to the natural and modest style of presentation promoted by Hugard in his books which I later found out is actually based on Vernon’s teachings and philosophy.
During those years, Alan filled me with enough theory to last a lifetime and Michael regularly used to dazzle me with his ability even then. I was introduced to the main influences on my magic which would be David Copperfield, Slydini, Dai Vernon, John Ramsay and Fred Kaps.
After getting married at 23, I pursued a career in education and dropped out of the magic scene until my midlife crisis at around 43. It was only then that I joined The Magic Circle and began to really perform commercial magic for audiences. I found that the level of theory and standards set by Alan enabled me to more than hold my own amongst my peers and learn from my experiences extremely quickly. Within a short time I found myself becoming Secretary of the society but it was in the actual performance of magic that I found real joy and all the theory and practice instilled into me finally made sense. I have often wondered why on earth I didn’t begin sooner! Ali Bongo once told me that “the only way to learn to do magic, is to do magic.” It seems so obvious retrospectively that you can’t get better at a performing art unless you perform, but I remember at the time not really believing him and insisting from an academic stand point there was much you could learn from books. For the past 3 years I have run the highly successful “Close-Up @ The Magic Circle” show and am a director of the charity “Centre of the Magic Arts” which preserves the heritage of The Magic Circle.
Question 1: What are your top 3 effects in magic and why?
To be honest, they change all the time as my routines and presentations constantly evolve. I’m always trying and assessing effects and I’m always refining what I do. Unlike many magicians, I actually have a large repertoire, which is necessary if you develop residencies.
My longest standing and most experienced effects are Ambitious Card, Bill Switch and Coins from Pocket. I appreciate simplicity, in both method and effect although I am not afraid to work hard to master any technical requirements. I gravitate to a slow and deliberate style, aiming to provide absolute clarity and a sense of “fairness” for the audience-going slow takes confidence. Anyone can rush through a trick using speed to fool people. Tricks that suit that style, attract me and those 3 tricks certainly fall into that category. I suspect my handling of all of them would surprise most magicians with how effective those classics still are.
Question 2: What is your intention and goal with every performance you give?
To improve. Both in terms of making the magic seem genuinely magical, and in terms of entertaining the audience. Alan always said “it’s all about communication. The big C.” That takes a lot of unpicking as it includes communicating yourself as a person as well as the effect. My personal approach is to try and be as sincere and honest with an audience as possible and so connect.
Question 3: What are you currently doing to leave the craft of magic a little better than you found it?
I love to session with like-minded friends. During this, I try to pass on the theory passed to me, along with my own thoughts and perceptions, to help others in the process of refining their craft. I enjoy the process of refining performance, whether for myself or by helping others. In return others have given me a great deal back as well.
In an age of mediocrity, I was lucky to be shown just how high the standards can be in the performing arts. Some magic out there is simply awful, but at its best, it can be beautiful and inspiring. I genuinely believe there is no need to expose, cheapen or apologise for magic in an attempt to make it more acceptable. It just has to be good.
Mike’s Guest Blogger Commentary
Chris’s contribution has revealed lot about his journey and I for one can endorse his commitment to excellence, especially as he dropped out of the scene for so long. He came back with a vigour and enthusiasm which is to be admired. He neglected to mention that he has for the last few years put on his own show for the general public The Close-Up Show which is a fantastic night out – do check it out.
If you haven’t seen Chris perform, you will see that his style and delivery is gracious, friendly and sincere and his magic is stunning. His desire is to honour the magic with integrity and his self-expression. I hope you get the chance to experience his work at some point in the future.