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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » The little darlings » » Performing in a foreign language (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

Andy Wonder
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Auckland, New Zealand
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I am looking for ideas & advise for performing in a foreign language. In January next year I will be going to stay in my wife’s small home town village in Borneo, Malaysia. She is planning a big magic show for me to do & inviting the whole town. I will have a family audience of about 1000 people made up of 50/50 adults and children & almost none of them will speak any English. I don’t speak any Malay or Chinese either so I need to plan a show where I don’t have to talk. I thought I would use a pre-recorded commentary in Malay for a lot of my routines & basically become a bit of a mime. I will also have my brother in law available to translate.

So far I have on my short list for the show:

  • Axtell Drawing Board with face speaking in Malay
  • Burnt borrowed bank note to cup of noodles
  • Fantasy Magician Routine
  • Rocky Racoon Routine
  • 20th Century Boxer Shorts
  • Guillotine Head Chopper (maybe)

My props all need to pack small so I carry them on the plane.

I’ve also being thinking of a version of the Vanishing Bandana. I like that routine because I can perform it without needing to talk. Of course the Malay word for banana and bandana sound nothing alike. However the word for knife and banana sound very similar so I might be able to do a variation of this routine.

Anyway any advice or ideas for adapting a show to be performed for a foreign language would be greatly appreciated.
Andy Wonder, Auckland, New Zealand
magic4u02
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Eternal Order
Philadelphia, PA
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This should be a great and rewrading experience for you Andy. i wish you much luck with this.

One of the things I would bring up is to ask your wife and find out what magic and or things in their culture might be considered bad if you perform them or if you speek them. meening, every culture thinks of magic in different terms. What we might perform in the US that goes over really well, may not make much sense to them in their culture or could even be found as offensive. it is just safe to go over your show materials to make sure your not doing anything that may cause a cultural clash.

I think this also goes for comedy as well. What we often find as humerous, other cultures do not understand it the way we do.

I love the drawing board idea. I do that in my shows as well and is a great intro for the show. it is great to be able to pantomime to this and connect with your audience as you attempt to draw someone from the audience.
Kyle Peron

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Emazdad
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Plymouth UK
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I've performed to Spanish kids, and Russian kids, I just did my normal show, I had an interpretor they were a big help but they struggled to keep up. Use lots of visual humour, and exagerated facial expressions as you talk and you will have no trouble. I used helpers as normal and had a great time.

Remember though if you use an interpretor the kids may not be looking at you while they are translating so adjust your performance to fit sothey don't miss the important bits.

I used at the time,
Organ pipes,
Zebra trick,
Rope through child,
Cup of water (upside down on the head) trick,
Scamp the dog
Magic Painting. useing colouring book.

It was during Emazdads's world tours '97 & '98. (HMS Somersets Falklands and Baltic deployments) It all fitted nicly into a small suitcase, I didn't have much room on board to take my magic box

I had the story of the delpoyments published in the budget, I'll try and scan them and upload them if anyone wants to read them.
Yours Funfully
Clive "Emazdad" Hemsley
www.emazdad.com

"Magic is a secret, without the secret there is no magic"

Remember there are only 3 types of people in the world, those that can count and those that can't.
magic4u02
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Philadelphia, PA
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Clive:
I would enjoy reading them if you get a chance to have those scanned in.
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Emazdad
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Plymouth UK
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I thought I hadthem on my computer, I'll re-scan them after my holiday.
Yours Funfully
Clive "Emazdad" Hemsley
www.emazdad.com

"Magic is a secret, without the secret there is no magic"

Remember there are only 3 types of people in the world, those that can count and those that can't.
Al Kazam the Magic Man
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Living in Perth Western Australia
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Hey Andy,
I perform all the time in Chinese here in Taiwan. I've also visited India twice to perform there for orphans and hospitals old folks, prisons etc. At least India is English speaking. Most kids would probably know some simple English anyways. When I went to India, I took a Strat-0-Sphere (went over very well), Change bag,(same as strat), even the silk vanish with TT is very powerful for them if they've never seen such a thing. Indian kids really loved that one.
Anyway, my advice is don't worry too much about the fine points (for example about 99% of jokes in English do not carry the same power of humor in Chinese) For me, I keep it visual, simple and colorful, sight gags go over well. I use funny glasses and a clown hat for me paper balls over the head, this gets a huge reaction from Asian kids, which may not get the same in NZ.
Anyways, just a couple of points that may help.
Have fun,
JoJo
Al Kazam --> Magic guy in Perth Australia
Andy Wonder
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Auckland, New Zealand
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Ah paper balls over the head! That is a good non-verbal one that packs flat. Thanks. Smile
Andy Wonder, Auckland, New Zealand
Dynamike
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How about performing a second act with no verbal, only foreign music. The type of way McBride performs his Commando Act on his Magic on Stage, volume #1.
Leo B. Domapias
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Hi Andy,

I think as an Asian living just North (though far North) of Borneo, I can give you an overview of what type of audience you can expect.

If you’ll be performing in a small town, count that as blessing. People there will look at you as god. Do a bill switch, and they’ll genuflect before you. Well, may be I’m exaggerating.

What I’m trying to say is that people in small towns in this part of the world look highly at entertainers. They expect you to entertain. So long as there are no drunks in the audience, you can perform assured that you’ll not get a single heckle.

They are also easy to laugh. Just sneeze in a funny way, and the children will laugh. So use as many comedy wands and crazy eyeglasses as you can, and the laughter will be non-stop. Don’t forget to say a few words in Malay at the start of the show. Three to four sentences. The more difficult those sentence to say, the funnier they are to them.

Now for the tricks.
Axtell Drawing Board with face speaking in Malay. Excellent.

Burnt borrowed bank note to cup of noodles. Too small for an audience of 1,000.

Fantasy Magician Routine. No comment. I’m not familiar with this routine.

Rocky Raccoon Routine. It depends on your routine.

20th Century Boxer Shorts. You can milk this for laughs.

Guillotine Head Chopper (maybe). Don’t maybe it. This will be the highlight of your show.

The Vanishing Bandana is very Western humor. It relies on the confusion between the word bandana and banana. It also gets its humor from the banana being bent, squeezed and squashed to gooey form. While this may be funny to Westerners, it is not funny to people in this part of the world where bananas are grown abundantly. It suggests work or labor, as opposed to fun. Moreover, the humorous misuse of the word “bandana” for “banana” is verbal comedy, which is difficult to pull off with non-Western audience. I’ve seen the trick performed once or twice here in the Philippines, and always the response was lukewarm.

Let me suggest some tricks that, in my experience, are hits with non-urban audiences:
Gene Anderson Torn & Restore Newspaper; Burnt and Restored Handkerchief. You are probably the first magician they’ll see live, so don’t forget the old reliables---linking rings, zombie, billiard balls, silk appearances/vanishes/color changes.

Ben Benjay
Manila, Philippines
Dynamike
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magic4u02
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Great stuff everyone. I also agree that watching Jeff's comando act might give you some nice idea. Things that play big but pack small and are very visual in appearance.
Kyle Peron

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