Updated: Aug 20, 2020
Understand the categories of magic & diversify your performance.
There are so many formats of magic from close up magic, stage shows, cabaret, family and parlour shows to large scale grand illusion shows. And there is also different styles of magic from card magic, mind-reading, pickpocket, escapology to children's shows.
Most magicians are able to perform in several different styles and formats for different situations using a mix of new and modern magic or effects that have been passed down through the generations. What is key however is to be able to offer a variety of magic style within each of your performance sets of routines too.
As a beginner, we tend to want to present all the magic we have learned without thinking about the actual effect of the trick, the routine or how it links with another. To a beginner, they are all different tricks so we believe it will appear that way to the spectator too. But it’s so not that way.
Being clear on what the effect is, helps you know how to sell the trick to the audience. It’s easy to lose sight of what it actually is you are trying to pretend happens. Seeing the trick itself isn’t always enough, it’s how you dress it and present it that becomes key to creating a great act or entertaining performance.
Adding variety is key! By this, I mean mixing the magic up with a vanish, an appearance, and restoration or levitation for example. This is what keeps the audience engaged and entertained. Rather than just watching a variation on a vanish and reappearance..even if its performed differently, it's still, in essence, the same outcome. You lose a card, you find it...even if you reveal their card in different ways, the point is, you still just lost their card in the pack and found it again...and it can become predictable.
By learning different effects that have various different outcomes and combining them together with a great story, patter or music to create a routine your act becomes immediately more engaging.
Dai Vernon said “ In Magic, today as always, the effect is what counts. The methods used are always purely secondary” so considering the effect and its possibilities should always be your starting point when building or creating a new routine or performance.
The main effects or result maybe you could say in ‘Magic’ are a Vanish, production, restoration, transformation, transposition, transportation, levitations, prediction, penetration and escape.
Below I have outlined them to give you a little more insight as to what they are so that it may help you when deciding what effects you should add to your next act.
I will start with the 'mighty four'
Vanish, production, penetration and transformations.
A Vanish (Disappearance, obliteration)
Having the ability to make something vanish or disappear is a popular effect in magic. It’s always amazing to witness whether you're making a coin or card vanish or even a sports car simply vanish before your very eyes! A real gasp maker!
Production (Appearance, creation, multiplication)
Production is when the magician is able to magically produced an object or item from thin air! To make something reappear after it has vanished is considered a production.
Penetration (One solid through another)
Being able to pass one object through another is very visual and seen in many magical effects such as when a ring melts off a ribbon, a sharpie is pushed through a banknote, a ball passes through a solid cup or the classic linking rings!
Transformation (Change in appearance. character or identity)
Being able to alter the look and appearance of an object from one object to another is seen a lot in stage magic where a magician may turn an assistant into another or even a white tiger, but also very visual in close up magic where the transformation can happen in the spectator’s hands, for instance, the colour of a handkerchief they are holding changes, or a 2pence coin changes to a two-pound coin!
Other favourite categories are below
A restoration (Making the destroyed whole)
A favourite in the magic world.. When an object appears to have been damaged, torn, cut or broken and magically restored by the magician. Favourite examples are the classic cutting a woman in half...or better said these days ‘an assistant in half’, the cut and restored rope routines...torn and restored napkin or even money!
Having the ability to make an object vanish from one place and appear in another is what magicians would call transportation.
This is having the ability to make objects change places. Often seen in card magic where a signed card changes places with a random card...and can be very entertaining when used as part of an act in kids shows and common in illusion shows when the magician and assistants change places. It also works well when you as the magician appear to have made a mistake, and magically the change has happened to an unreal and unsuspecting surprise!
Anti-Gravity & Animation
(Levitation and change in weight and movement imparted to the inanimate)
Being able to take an inanimate object and give it a ‘life’ as such by making it float in the air in front of the spectators is real magic! Magicians have spent years trying to add a levitation to their acts as this would be one of the most visual and memorable pieces of magic whether it’s flying over the audience, floating a paper napkin or paper rose or even making a banknote levitate in front of your very eyes!
When a magician / Escapologist is able to escape or break free from restraints such as handcuffs, straight jackets, ropes or chains. Not always considered magic as such, but often performed by magicians as part of an overall show. Harry Houdini was famous for his escapes.
Attraction (Mysterious adhesion)
A magical form a magnetism - By some means of mysterious powers, the magician appears to have the ability to make items attract to one another as if by a using a magnetic force.
The visual appearance of a solid object stretching. a little like a transformation but not a permanent result. More of a visual illusion, for instance, stretching a sharpie or even a coin.
Sympathetic Reaction (Sympathetic response)
Where an object or item appears to mimic or reflect the movements of another in harmony. For instance the sympathetic matches.
Prediction (Foretelling the future)
In a prediction effect, you appear to predict the future. In magic or mentalism, the prediction is typically a word, group of words, number, event, thought of card, a description that has been written down in advance of the performance and often is something that only a spectator might know.
ESP (Unusual perception, other than mind)
Extra-Sensory Perception – all types of abnormal perception other than through mental communication. ESP is the perception or communication outside of our normal sensory capability, as in telepathy and clairvoyance
Thought Transmission (Thought projection and transference)
The projection of a thought from one person to another.
The performer apparently is able to read the minds and thoughts of another. A very popular form of entertainment that packs small but plays big. Perfect for close up and intimate performances but also plays well on theatre stages and tv.
Telekenesis and Psychokinesis 'PK'
The power to manipulate physical objects with one's mind. The magician is able to influence, manipulate, move items by the use of psychic power without coming into physical contact with them- with just the power of their mind. Also known as mind over matter.
Psychokinesis is associated more with using ‘psychic’ power whereas telekinesis is more about moving objects solely with the power of the mind.
Now you know the above, think about the magic you have, the magic you want to learn and how best to put it all together to offer variety and keep your audience engaged and entertained.
A good practice is to go through all your material and try and group them into their different categories. This way you will be able to quickly develop your own routines and performance sets that have diversity of effect. It will also enable you to quickly see what category of magic you are heavy or light on to easily evaluate your repertoire, which will support you when looking out for new material, content and effects.
It would be great to hear from you all and hear what your favourite routine is and what genre and the magic category it falls in! Have you got any great effects and examples that fall into the categories discussed? Do you know of an routine that has several categories in the same performance?