So, it’s about an hour to go to the show. I prepare the props for the last trick I will be doing, the money into the egg, lemon and walnut. I lay out everything that goes into the ‘act box’ and everything that goes into my pockets.
Time to get dressed and I do, loading my pockets, and setting the other stuff into the act box that I will be using throughout the show.
People keep coming in and asking me questions and I can sense their nervousness. I take a walk around the dressing rooms to wish everyone luck and to calm them down. I don’t get nervous because I think the big stuff in the world, the wars caused usually by religious superstitions, are far more important than what I am going to do…
Next comes a walk and inspection of every single prop, making sure it is all set and in the right place. I know Scott will have done it, but I used to have a veteran Stage Manager and I learnt to check everything three times from him, forwards, backwards and forwards again.
I make sure the smoke machine is switched on. It belongs to the theatre and the crew will work it, but you never know…
Through the tabs, curtains to you, I can hear the audience buzz and I know that business is going to be pretty good. I am suddenly very tired. Others get nervous; I go to sleep!
Almost time so I start to breathe more rapidly, deliberately, to pump me up.
The PowerPoint style presentation, prepared by a member of the theatre staff starts on the big screen and goes wrong. I feel so sorry for her. An audience member shouts out ‘Get a Mac’ and everyone laughs, especially me ‘cos if she had a Mac it would never have been put right
The presentation continues with great archive photographs and knowledge and as it ends I walk out of a smoke filled upper stage to pay tribute to the Great Lafayette with a real mixture of a magic show, a lot of which I have not done for years. The applause to welcome me feels great and I just know we are in for a great night.
My mouth clicks into action and after greetings I sail into a very old trick that I know, with the routine I wrote years ago, will get the audience shouting as I do what is known as the Six Card Repeat. The sound operator misses the cue at the end… it turns out he was too engrossed in the trick. A compliment, I think.
Behind me the amazing cloth with its painting of the Lafayette show on it, rises to reveal Debbie and, as always, she gets far more applause than me.
Debbie has a tiny tiny Doll’s House and together we present this startling illusion and I hear the audience gasp as Sophie bursts out of it at the end.
I walk forward to present a numerical trick that ends in a prediction not only of the number the audience chose, but that number turns out to be the date that The Great Lafayette perished in the fire.
The curtain rises again, this time to reveal our version of Metamorphosis, a trick introduced by Harry Houdini, the friend of Lafayette and of course we have a twist at the end which leaves me ‘front cloth’ again to perform Dean’s Box. To generate spontaneous applause I use a technique that I saw used by The Great Levante when I was a boy. It always works.
Next is Geometrix, an illusion not greatly loved by magicians but I altered the design years ago and apparently it is now a lot more baffling. When it ends I stay upstage with Sophie, who was in the box and as the curtain falls Debbie enters stage right to perform Multum in Parvo, which is a trick with milk. I couldn’t see it but from comments afterwards and the sound of the applause I knew she had done well.
As she left the stage the lighting went into ‘moody’, the music became more mysterious and I was laid down and pushed into a coffin like box. Scott and the assistants, all wearing spooky costumes, ignited the box which fell apart on a lighting change to dramatically light the skeleton that I had become. We dropped the ‘house tabs’ to close the first half with the whole audience vividly reminded of what had happened 100 years ago.
During the interval the stage was cleared and reset for the second half of the show. Scott Penrose opened and I have not seen his act for some time. It’s good. It’s very good. Talking to him afterwards I became aware that he has no idea how good he is! Beautifully routined with a lovely climax which I won’t spoil here. If you get the chance, see him.
I ‘took him off’ as they say and went into my Cup and Ball routine. It’s become a signature tune for me. At the end one of the girls came and took the box off. Mistake. My fault because I had told her to do that, forgetting that I needed it later… but no embarrassment shown by me because that would have been a bigger mistake.
I talked about the fact that some of the staff believe they have seen the ghost of Lafayette and got a couple of guys out of the audience to take part in the Spirit Cabinet routine with Debbie as the ‘medium’. Second mistake – I must be slipping – because I forgot to tell them to pick the cabinet up to show no-one was concealed inside it. The routine went well despite that however, although it was interesting to see that with changing times there was no-one near the front wearing a jacket, so we had to cut one section out of effect.
After that, for me, it was more or less, act as known with card in wallet, chair routine, and egg, lemon and walnut. I made as much as I could out of the two men on stage and they were great fun to be with.
I then introduced Scott Penrose to close the show performing my favourite illusion which, in the manner of Lafayette, included a costume change and transpositions leaving everyone on stage to take their bows. As we did that we all turned and acknowled the picture of the man we had come to remember, The Great Lafayette, and the house curtain came down to one helluvan ovation.
As Scott had said, in the West End they can take three weeks to set up a show like that and we had done it in a day and a half. More than ‘done it’… it was a show to remember and to be proud of.
As I said when I started the previous blog… ‘two nights ago I was a Star…’ I love Show Business