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Bananafish
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Simon Shaw, Suffolk, England
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The Ipswich Magical Society Convention 2005

It is difficult to know where to start writing a review for a day that was so choc-a-block full of events. This was the 18th Annual one day convention put on by the Ipswich Magical Society and I have to say it was the most enjoyable one I have attended so far.

I am not sure exactly why this one was better than previous ones, perhaps because the choice of lecturers and performers offered such a wide variety of magic genres.

In one format or another there was everything from Comedy Magic, Mentalism, Bizarre, Classical ( “Top Hat and Tails”), Illusions, Ventriloquism, Juggling, Close-Up, Escapology, Children’s and I am sure 101 other types.

The Dealers
The worry was that the dealers would be a little thin on the ground this year, especially as two of the usual regulars couldn’t make it (Card Collection and Kaymar) and unfortunately Alakazam had to cancel at the last minute due to unforeseen circumstances. Having said that, the remaining dealers did a sterling job and between them, offering a huge wealth of effects, both large and small that kept the dealer room buzzing throughout the entire day.

The Scott Creasey Lecture
I know that more than a few people registered purely because Scott Creasey (Mentalist and Escapologist) was lecturing. His talk was a little rushed in places, but that was mainly as he condensed his normal two hour lecture into just one.

Having said that, the lecture was still nonetheless fascinating. He spent the first half (perhaps jus less than half) talking about mentalism, mainly different peek methods all of which he demonstrated with an easy and relaxed style that highlights why he is one of this countries top performing mentalists.

The second half was dedicated to Escapology and although I suspect that there were not many working escapologists present, it still has to be said that it was still an extremely captivating (did you see what I did there?) talk. Scott discussed some of his own personal escape related anecdotes and talked us through a variety of escapology equipment from hand cuffs to an un-gimmicked straight jacket that he then proceeded to explain (and demonstrate) how to escape from.

I did manage to have a short conversation with Scott throughout the day and I found him a fascinating gentleman. I only wished I could have spent more time talking to him. He offered something a little bit different to this year’s convention and by all accounts his lecture was received very well by all who were present.

The Jon Allen Lecture
When it comes to Comedy Magic, I think Jon Allen is one of (if not the) best in his field. He has his own unique style that utilises a vast array of facial expressions, quick snappy patter and of course both stunning and visually amazing Magic. In my mind Jon Allen is a must see performer, and he left everyone wanting more once the lecture was over.

Perhaps the high-point of the lecture was his take on the card on ceiling effect. You would have to see the lecture hall to know exactly why it was so impressive as not only is the ceiling extremely high (and I do mean extremely high), it is also criss-crossed with struts that would make your average Joe Magician wet his pants before attempting such a feat, certainly without a safety net. The only thing I think he could have added to it was having a pair of binoculars that he could have passed around so that we could have actually seen the card a little easier!

The Scott Penrose Lecture
The last lecture of the day was by that legend of magic. Mr. Scott Penrose. I have to admit I had never seen him perform before, but that isn’t to say I didn’t know who he was. I can now quite categorically state that his reputation in magic is very well deserved. He is the epitome of the professional magician. Think top hat and tails. Think silks, doves and disappearing candles and you will know exactly who I am talking about. He even had the dealers rushing out of the dealer room to see his lecture. In short, Scott Penrose IS a class act.

The theme of his lecture was “Making your magic more magical”, and he demonstrated how, with a little thought even the simplest of tricks could be made just that little bit more flashy, that little bit more magical.

The magic he performs may not be to the taste of some of the new breed of “street magicians” that are cropping up everywhere, but I doubt anyone who watched his lecture was anything less than glued to his every word.

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The Close Up Session
The first activity after lunch was an hour of close-up with two of the guest lecturers and two of the Ipswich Magical Societies own home grown magicians.

The format was 4 tables in each corner of the room, with each magician performing for 15 minutes at each table.

It has to be said that both the Ipswich magicians, Daren Morgan and Robert Cope can hold their heads up high after performing with full time professionals Scott Creasey and Jon Allen.

The Jon Allen Close Up Session
Those, like me, who had already heard of Jon Allen’s “The Silent Treatment”, knew we were going to be in for a big treat and we weren’t in the least disappointed. Jon Allen was born to perform Comedy Magic, and The Silent Treatment was designed for a performer who can ham it up (and trust me on this, but Mr Allen can ham it up with the best of them). I can see this one effect being the new "Folding Bandana" and suspect that by next year it will be performed by just about every magician living. To see Jon Allen perform it himself, live, is always going to always be a high spot for me.

The rest of his close-up act was also no disappointment. He successfully spiced up an otherwise standard matrix effect with nothing else but a red nose. A simple idea, but one that worked, and he ended with his amazing pet duck that highlighted the fact that we should be scouring the toyshops for our magic ideas and not the magic shops.

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The Scott Creasey Close Up Session
So we know Scott can do mentalism, and we know he can do escapology, but the question is, can he do close-up? The answer is of course yes. Not surprising really with all the residencies he has had. Scott Creasey is a natural born performer and it should have been no surprise really that armed with a deck of cards he is going to be entertaining.

The Rob Cope Close Up Session
Rob who I hear you ask? Although Rob Cope has only been doing magic for a few years, you would in fact never have known that from his performance. He was actually one of the surprise acts of the day, and had everyone at the table in absolute tears of laughter. It could never be said that Rob is the quiet type, and opening with the three shell game suited his loud (very loud) cheeky chappie cockney persona perfectly.

For all his loudness though, Rob Cope is a very humble performer who for some reason never thinks he is good enough and it always takes ages to persuade him to do anything. Hopefully with the reactions he got on the day, he will know acknowledge with absolutely no uncertainty that he is in fact a very gifted natural performer.

The Daren Morgan Close Up Session
Daren is another of the Ipswich Magical Societies home grown performers who (due to unforeseen circumstances) was only asked to perform on the day of the convention itself. Luckily for him he had a few coins and a deck of cards, and together with a borrowed set of nuts and bolts, he quickly put together a very skilful and entertaining close-up act. He certainly wasn’t out of place performing alongside the professional magicians.

The Gala Show
This year the Ipswich Magical Society put on one of the best live magic shows I have ever seen. This was certainly no amateur night and frankly any one of the acts would have been at home live at the London Palladium. In fact the whole show would have made a great TV special and if had been videoed would have sold by the shipload.

Richard Whymark, Compere.
Professional Comedian and Magician Richard Whymark has compered the show for a number of years now, and after watching him it is no wonder that he is asked back every year.

He filled the in between moments perfectly, with his own zany style of comedy that had everyone in creases.

Matt Edwards. The Gala Show
I have said it many times before, in fact so many times that by now there will be those that think I want to have his balloon babies. However, for me Matt Edwards still remains one of the funniest guys in magic around at the moment, and judging by the raucous laughter that accompanied him throughout his act I am not alone in this. Matt is very quick witted, funny and an extremely talented magician to boot. Why he hasn’t yet got his own TV show I just don’t know.

One of the things that strikes me most about Matt’s performances is his ability to make the audience his own. There are some artists that have a good rapport with their audience but Matt always seems to be able to go one better than that and at times you feel that he is performing just for you.

I am very proud of the fact that Matt is a member of the Ipswich Magical Society, and no matter how many times I see him perform, you always know you are going to be in for a very entertaining time.

Scott Creasey. The Gala Show
When Scott Creasey walked out on stage, everyone was reduced to an uncomfortable silence as it appeared that he was struck down with an unfortunate coughing fit. This silence soon become stunned amazement and quickly rapturous applause when in the act of removing his jacket he magically produced a full glass of water from the sleeve.

Scott proved that he was comfortable performing in any situation whether it’s a lecture, close-up or on stage in front of hundreds of people.

He ended his act with straight-jacket escape made even more entertaining by his choice of Matt Edwards to help tighten the straps. There can be no doubt in anyone’s mind that Matt was doing his ***edest to make sure all the straps were as tight as possible, and even having seen Scott’s lecture during the day, I had to wonder how long it would take him to escape, if in fact he was going to escape at all.

The other thing that Scott’s performance proved to me was that amongst all his other numerous talents, he also has a natural flair for comedy.

Karl Jeffery and Willie Mischief. The Gala Show
There can be no doubt whatsoever that Karl Jeffery is a very talented young ventriloquist. It’s not a matter of never seeing his lips move, as frankly you are so affected by what he and his friends have to say that you never look.

At one point he had Willie Mischief sitting with his back to the audience in the “Naughty Boy Chair”, and Bebe, the shy, humble Hippo at his side on stage. The three of them were having such a quick fire conversation that you can only assume the puppets are actually alive.

Doesn’t anyone else find ventriloquist’s scary?

Scott Penrose. The Gala Show
In my opinion every live gala magic show should have one magician like Scott Penrose. Actually no. Let me clarify that. Every live gala show should have Scott Penrose. If I had my way, I would ask him to come back and perform every year.

I seriously doubt that there is anyone else who can perform “classic” magic as well as Scott Penrose. It was beautiful to watch and so wonderfully choreographed that it actually left me breathless.

Everything Scott did, he did with an elegance and perfection that is only achievable by years of practice. This was an act that could be appreciated by magicians and muggles alike. His entire act served to highlight the main point he made during his lecture, that is to say “Make your magic more magical”.

Jon Allen. The Gala Show
Jon Allen is Jon Allen is Jon Allen. Need I say more? Certainly anyone who has seen him perform will know exactly what I mean.

Previously I was a big fan of his effects. Now I am a bigger fan of his performances. His stage routine wasn’t anything too spectacular from a magical perspective, but his stage persona was, which just goes to prove how much of what we do is about entertainment.

I can’t quite put my finger on it as to what exactly it is that makes Jon Allen a cut above the rest, but he definitely does have that little something extra. To see him perform live, whether it is close-up or on stage is a joy that I will indulge in whenever I get the opportunity. I strongly suggest everyone else does the same.

After watching his act, I am confident that Jon Allen could have merely walked out on stage without saying a word, and still have had the whole audience in fits of laughter. His facial expressions speak volumes, and the subtleties that he adds to each effect not just make the effect his own (something we should all do), but genuinely add something that takes it to a new level. His bottle production from a balloon was a prime example. Just producing the bottle wasn’t enough for Jon, he added a comedy skit at the end that was absolutely priceless.

Michael Pearse. The Gala Show
I don’t know where to start writing about Michael Pearse. He was very much the surprise hit of the convention, and is the one person absolutely everybody was talking about afterwards.

All I knew about Michael Pearse before his act was that he was a comedy Juggler. Seven years ago he was voted the most promising newcomer. Not a bad achievement seeing as he was 65 at the time, but believe me, he is far more than that. From the moment he first went out on stage he had the entire audience eating out of his hand, and absolutely crying with laughter.

His act consisted of juggling various items to a volley of quick fire jokes that never ceased from start to finish. I was laughing so much that I doubt I actually heard more than one in three jokes and would gladly pay to see him perform over and over again.

Kovarez. The Gala Show
As always the show ended with an illusionist act and it’s easy to see why Steve Kovarez heads up one of the countries leading acts in that particular field. His routine consisted of three illusions and some filler magic that was actually nice to see as it proved that not all illusionists are just front men for the lovely assistant that deep down we all know do all the actual work.

The first illusion I found especially puzzling. His lovely assistant was locked inside what I initially thought was going to be a substitution trunk. That idea was quickly dismissed though, as he proceeded to push through (from various angles) numerous swords. This by itself looked quite spectacular, especially as throughout the whole time his assistant’s hand was clearly seen poking out of a hole at the front of the trunk.

The real surprise came when the front of the trunk was dramatically opened and it could be clearly seen that the lovely lady had vanished, and all that could be seen in the otherwise empty trunk were the blades of the sword, and what I can only assume was a red garter.

All in all the entire act was nicely acted out and was a great ending to a truly very magical evening.

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Overall
As you can tell I loved every minute of the entire day. The only single thing that I could possibly complain about was that in their infinite wisdom, the local council decided to choose the same day dig up the road the led to the convention centre, causing many people problems in actually finding their way in. Having said that, I should add, that by all accounts, the workers themselves were more than helpful in giving people directions.

To summarise though, The Ipswich Magical Society’s 18th One-Day convention was a truly Magical day from beginning to end, and in my opinion they deserve their mantle of being known as "The Friendly One".

The full review and more photographs of the day can be found on the Ipswich Magical Society Website
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