The Close-Up Magician and The Banquet Environment

I have been meaning to document my thoughts about this particular form of professional work for quite sometime.  What prompted this blog post was my first experience of Banquet entertaining in almost ten years.

PictureMartin Cox

Last Saturday, I had the pleasure of working along side my friends Martin Cox, Tim Shoesmith and Nick Reid.  As I said above, this was my first experience performing under these conditions in ten years. I was a little concerned about accepting this booking because of my hearing loss. As many magicians will know, this environment can be very noisy. I am sure this is part of the reason why I have experienced dramatic loss to my hearing.  

Once I accepted the booking, I knew I would have to find a way to manage my well-being and still deliver a professional performance. The context was still as I remember it, close-up magic during the reception and then continued during the sit down meal.

To my surprise, I thought I did very well considering I have limited hearing. My hearing aid picks up a lot of back ground noise so as you can imagine, it can be difficult engaging in conversation. Nevertheless, I decided to relax and come from a position of peace and ease, no stress, a clam and friendly delivery and it worked. My lip reading was pretty good too during the reception. The most important thing was deciding what tricks to perform.

My set for the reception featured:

My stand up coin a routine with multiple surprises – this routine has so many wonderful moments I decided to perform this routine as the only sequence for a particular group before moving on to my next group of people.

My next routine was my go to effect, Roy Walton’s “Smiling Mule” – this routine proved to be a big winner simply because of the humor and the “kiss ass” finish. It is a stunning effect and with my hearing condition, my presentation made it easy to gauge the interaction for maximum effect.

So, those two routines served me well for the first hour reception.

My set during dinner featured:

My Bending Spoon Routine – this has been my opening gambit for over twenty-five years and is a visually stunning effect. It has never let me down. Tonight it played as strong as it always has. This routine is great because it allows me the chance to gauge the audience and monitor their response to what I am doing and me.

The Banquet environment can be pretty hectic – the waiters have an important job and that is getting the food on the table. Short routines are essential for good timing to ensure I don’t impede on the waiters doing their job. Believe it or not, I performed this routine and nothing else for the ten tables I was allotted right up to the end of the first course. If I feel I have more time, I will perform my second effect which is……wait for it……… The Acrobatic Match Box.

YES… read that right.

This wonderful effect was taught to me by Alan Alan when I was thirteen years old and I have used it ever since. This is one effect that rocks the whole table of ten. If you have seen me perform this you know exactly what I mean.

So The Bending Spoon and Acrobatic Match Box supports me right up to the start of the Main Course and I pull away for ten minutes to allow my ten tables to enjoy their meal.

The first table I spot to have finished their Main Course will be my next group. Here, I usually perform some card magic. My favorite effect at this point is Francis Carlyle’s Homing Card. This routine is a big effect and works perfectly for a large table. For additional impact, I close this sequence with the selection appearing inside a ring box all folded up – this never fails to provide 100 % satisfaction.

I have a few extra effects in my pocket for variety if I feel the need for it, however on this gig, the routines outlined worked perfectly.

The one thing I want to address in this post was a comment mentioned to me by my friend Jin Lee. He asked me if it was an easy transition into this style of performance and does the magic play as strongly. I knew exactly where he was coming from, given the fact that the night before I had just seen his one man show Shuffling Philosophies

When you contrast working in a small theatre verses the hustle and bustle of a Banquet Hall, they are worlds apart and couldn’t be more different for a magician or a magician who desire a more artistic form of expression.

I must be perfectly honest and declare, I have never liked or enjoy performing for people while they are eating. It is counter productive for me – good food and good magic require attention in order to be fully enjoyed and appreciate. Over the years, I have learned how to make the this environment work for me In spite of my reservations about the conditions.

The transition from one performance venue to another like this, is sharp and requires a more forceful approach in to order to be well received given the aggressive environment and context. Sometimes, on a given night, it can feel like a workout and like last Saturday I made it play for me given my limitations. Sometimes in life a limitation can work to your advantage, it did in my case. I travelled light and didn’t worry or stress myself out in order to hear or be heard, it made a big difference.

I haven’t lost my confidence to perform; nevertheless, I still find banquets the most challenging environment of all to work in. It doesn’t mean it can’t be done with class and elegance. For those of you who know me, class, elegance and dignity are important to how I come across as a magician.

I want thank Martin Cox for having me as part of the team, he facilitated a big breakthrough for me.

Also, to Jin Lee for prompting me to write this blog post with his questions about this very demanding branch of magic.

While my views are somewhat subjective, I acknowledge all the magicians who earn their living performing at diners and receptions, it has become the norm and yet one of the most effective forms of corporate entertainment.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *