Worse Things Happen at Sea

Now and then I mess up the occasional trick. Maybe I lose the card in the deck. Perhaps an audience members spots a move. Yesterday, while working at a table, trick after trick went wrong. There was no one thing that really tripped me up, just a perfect storm of slight missteps that lead to an abject failure to succeed in producing a single effect. Every table I had done before then was fine, and every table after too. It was weird, like a kind of magic dead zone. I can only assume that one of the people I was performing for was my very own Lex Luthor, and they were wearing a Kryptonite ring just so when I asked ‘is THIS your card?’ they were able to scoff and say ‘no’.

Luckily for me, it was fine. I’ve always relied heavily on my performance skills and I like to think that even if I didn’t do a single trick I am still an entertaining enough conversationalist that people at a table would enjoy my company anyway. So we all had a good time and at the end I was actually asked for my card, though in all honesty I think this was more through pity than anything else. But it happens. Things go wrong. Magic goes wrong. I was talking about this very situation latter with some friends at Covent Garden as I commiserated with them over how dreadful the weather currently is and how it’s rough making a living doing street performances in general at the moment. In fact, more on that at the end. Anyway, one of them started telling me about a strait jacket act that went awfully wrong. Not only did the artist fail to escape, he refused any help, even going so far as to swear at anyone who came over to him. Apparently there is a video on YouTube, which I haven’t looked up because frankly I don’t think I could take the toe curling agony of watching a fellow performer get themselves in such a spot. I’ve seen magicians get to their grand finale and suddenly realise they’ve forgotten to set it up. Coins have been dropped, electronics have failed, rubber bands have snapped, but the show must go on. In a particularly harrowing anecdotes one magician told me about producing a dove whose neck had been snapped accidently by a passing stage hand moments before. It happens to all of us, and that’s okay.

Sometimes these mishaps destroy a performance, and sometimes they can even enhance them. Often we’re just happy to survive them. There is a sliver of schadenfreude inside most people that means even a mistake can leave them feeling happy with an act. A good magician knows how to use that and build on it if they need to. A great magician ensures their audience never even know anything went wrong.

Me? I tend to blush and stammer.

But in a charming way.

Earlier I mentioned Covent Garden and street entertainment and said I’d add something. Well, here it is. If you do want an amazing day of world class entertainment for the whole family for very little money and you’re even close to London, head down to Covent Garden next weekend. Even if you paid each performer £10 a show that’s about £100 for eight hours entertainment for your entire family! That’s cheaper than anything else I can think of. It’s better value than any West End show or amusement park. Right now it’s a rough time for street entertainers. There is something in the air and people just aren’t giving what they could. This is an art form that matters, and it’s going to die without our support. Do yourself a favour, and make the world a better place.


Paul ReganComment