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If you have been visiting this blog, you may have noticed by now that I am quick to complain against similarities in magic performances.
I have a good reason for nurturing this particular outlook on life. I have seen way too many magicians having the same tricks in their repertoires.
Many well-meaning magicians say this is isn’t really a bad thing. They claim that it is not what one does but how he does it that matters to the audience.
I beg to disagree. I think it is a bad thing to have a surfeit of the same tricks among magicians. Audiences have a satiation point. When they reach it, they feel like vomiting watching the same tricks all over again.
I used to puzzle over why, despite the thousands of magic tricks available out there, magicians insist on doing only a few out of the large pool of choices. The unfortunate result is that they perform similar tricks in their programs and look like clones of each other.
Today, I am more accepting of this “same-trick” phenomenon. After a long session of meditation, I discovered the answer to this quandary. While it is true that there are thousands of magic tricks available from dealers, only few can be performed under all-weather conditions. Only few need a manageable set-up time. And most of all, only few can mystify. A good number cannot be performed surrounded, or require complicated set-up, or lack impact to elicit the kind of amazement and wonder that magicians are looking for from their tricks.
As a result, many magicians rely on the same small pool of tricks to populate their programs.
Just a few weeks ago, IMC sent a delegation of 16 to Thailand to join in a magic competition. When they came home, they reported that in the stage competition, over 40 magicians joined. Most of the contestants performed canes, candles, multiplying balls, and silk handkerchiefs.There was a surfeit of similar tricks in all the contest pieces.
How many ways do you throw the Javelin? How many variations can you roll the bowling bowl so each time is different from the previous roll?
Not many. So every Javelin throw and every bowling ball roll look the same, and no one stands up and complains, “Stop it! You guys look the same to me!”
But after watching the third and fourth contestants, I grow weary with what I saw. The awe dissipated, because all I saw were similar moves, twirls, and techniques. Yet, each and every contestant got tremendous response from the audience.
Because the audience is not made up totally of lay people. Majority of the spectators are fans of figure skating or themselves ice skaters. They watch for techniques and get their entertainment in seeing difficult moves executed perfectly.
This is the reason why, in a magic competition, where the audience is made up mostly of fans of magic or of magicians, the similar tricks shown by contestants are perfectly acceptable. Magicians and magic fans don’t watch magic competitions to be entertained. They watch it to see moves and techniques done well.
However, magic competitors should recognize the difference between performing in a competition and entertaining a lay audience, say, at a birthday party. Similarity, likeness and familiarity are not the qualities most clients and lay public look for in a magic show. Methinks they prefer uniqueness, especially after watching their third or fourth magic show.
It is not enough to invoke the magician’s escape clause, “It’s not what you do but how you do it”, to ease a lay audience’s misgivings when they see Hippity Hop Rabbit for the nth time. I think shelving the trick is the better option to spare the audience from the agony of repetition.