The 2013 Melbourne Magic Festival
Most of us will have been exposed to magic at an early age – a clown pulling a rabbit out of a hat or David Copperfield’s grandiose stage shows on TV. The problem is, even though this is just a small image of the many facets of magic, it seems to stick with us and frame our opinion. The 2013 Melbourne Magic Festival aims to challenge our preconceptions of magic and change the way we perceive the entire art form.
“The whole point of the festival is to let people know that it’s not just their old fashioned idea of what magic might be,” says Festival Director and highly regarded performer, author and lecturer in the world of magic and illusion, Tim Ellis.
“We’re showing that there’s as much variety in magic as there is in music. You wouldn’t just assume that all music is opera or rap, yet people seem to do that with magic. They seem to pigeonhole it as whatever their own personal experience of it has been. We’ve created a showcase where all styles of magic can be seen; whether it is mentalism, sleight of hand, comedy magic or grand illusions.
“Last year’s festival saw 10,000 people come through the doors and this year is going to be even bigger – a lot of the performers are taking some very big risks.”
This year the festival’s relentless schedule will bring in 175 performances of 40 different shows in just 13 days. What’s more, one of the biggest names on the international circuit will be in town: Wayne Houchin. Wayne is highly regarded in the magic community through not just his own mind-blowing shows, but because of his work with magic megastar Criss Angel and from co-founding the popular magic website theory11.
“Wayne’s show is astonishing,” Tim says. “He has invented a whole series of amazing effects that are designed to have the absolute highest possible impact. It’s not just a mental influence; his work seems to create a genuine emotional response. That’s key to the art – magic should never just be just a puzzle that you want to figure out. Wayne is constantly trying to push the boundaries of magic and he injects a lot of his personality into what he does. He doesn’t want to do tricks that have been done before by other people, and if he does, he will put a devastating twist on them.”
As well as being a showcase for Wayne and some of Australia’s leading magic professionals, the festival is also used as an outlet to educate budding magicians with a host of lectures, workshops and classes for both kids and adults.
There are also sessions such as Move Monkeys – a free ‘sessioning’ gathering which allows both professional and hobbyist magicians to swap moves and get tips and techniques, as well as The False Panel which features six experienced magicians taking on difficult questions from the audience.
Although it has grown every year, a constant problem the festival faces is recognition from Government bodies.
“A lot of the Government bodies don’t seem to see it as an art form – it’s just a commercial enterprise. They’re happy to support circus and burlesque, but not magic.
“For the first five years the festival was purely run by the performers themselves, but now it is too big so we got a dedicated festival administrator involved. We had to turn away 21 different shows that we just couldn’t fit in, but we’re still looking to expand.”
It seems strange to think of magic being disregarded as an art form when you look at all the mediums it encompasses: performance, theatre, comedy and occasionally even dance and music.
“Magic draws on all other art forms and combines them to create an illusion of something impossible happening,” Tim says. “It’s strange because that’s what theatre is all about. You go to a play and the actor says ‘I am the Prince of Denmark’ and the audience believes you, but if a magician says ‘watch as this box floats’, people will challenge it. We have to work so much harder. The ultimate is when there is no attempt in the audience’s mind to figure out how something is done because in that moment they are so stunned that there is only one explanation: it must be magic.”
This is obviously no easy feat, so Tim says there was a conscious decision to include shows that will really push the boundaries of illusion.
“We’re slipping in some shows that are really going to challenge people. My show, In Dreams, attempts to tell a story through magic only. As the story unfolds and you listen to the lyrics of the background music and you see what’s going on, you put the pieces together and you start to understand what the story is. It’s got a few different outcomes and some moments that will have people talking afterwards and scratching their heads. Hopefully it will inspire people to carve out new paths, instead of treading on the paths that people have walked on before.”
BY CALLUM FITZPATRICK
The 2013 Melbourne Magic Festival runs from Monday July 1 - Saturday July 13 at the Northcote Town Hall. Visit melbournemagicfestival.com for more information.