A Busy Week

This has been a busy week for me. Papa Regan had to go into hospital. I’m not going to go into it for two reasons. Firstly, we’re a very private family, and secondly, my little sister pretty much live blogged the whole thing over on Facebook anyway. Suffice it to say that he’s now fine and back at home. I am immensely grateful to all of the staff at Northwick Park Hospital who made sure that I didn’t lose my dad. You might not know it but this year the NHS turns 70, and I for one am so happy that this great, national institution has been helping sons keep their fathers for so long.

While I was at the hospital, other than the awful signage around the place, I noticed two interesting things. First off, if you’re a guy wearing rolled up shirt sleeves walking around a hospital, a surprisingly large number of people assume that you’re a doctor there. I think my glasses help with the academic professional look but honestly, with my near encyclopaedic knowledge of House and Hawkeye quotes I think by the end of the week there’s a good chance I could have been on payroll.

The other thing I noticed happened as I was sat with my father. As is my habit, as we chatted I was messing around with a deck of cards. Just what a magician might call ‘drills’. And then I heard it from the opposite side of the ward:

“Are you going to show us a trick?”

Captain Calamity

Captain Calamity

The son of one of the patients had spotted me practicing, and just came out and asked for a trick. I couldn’t blame him; he and a few other family members had been there for hours with his dad with nothing much to do. And so I walked over and started performing. My selection of tricks was rather limited as the deck I was using wasn’t one I would normally chose for magic. When I perform at weddings of shows I often have young people there. When this happens a lot of the time I’ll offer to teach them a trick. As sticky fingers do not go well with a deck you’ll be using to create miracles, I usually have a couple of cheaper decks on my person. Though these cards are perfectly fine for the kind of trick I would teach anyone who has never done magic before – not just a child – they are low quality. This is because I always give them away to the person so they can practice and sometimes I can teach ten or more people a trick. This would become rather expensive if I didn’t use cheaper card stock. However, while fine for a simple trick, the cards really are not much use when trying to perform a lot of the methods I often rely on. Still, I’m a professional and I soldiered on.

Ricardo Rosenkranz

Ricardo Rosenkranz

They loved it. The whole family were gathered around, each one asking for their turn to be part of a trick, and then another. I don’t think the patient minded that the attention was on me because he too was enthralled. I performed for maybe twenty or thirty minutes before thanking them and going back to my father. But that had gotten me thinking. Captain Calamity, a magician specialising in children’s entertainment, is someone I’ve performed with at the Magic Circle. He also performs for sick children at hospitals, including my local one the Lister. He gets amazing reactions, as well he should. He’s a professional doing a great job entertaining children. But why do we only think about children in these situations? I make a not inconsiderable amount of my money as a magician performing at restaurants, clubs, and pubs, as well as parties of all types. Now, arguably, these are places and situations where the adults should be having a good time anyway. They are surrounded by friends, there is food and drink, and unless it’s backstage at a Rolling Stones concert the chances of anyone being in the middle of a full blood transfusion are pretty much non-existent. Yet this is where magicians – and most professional entertainers – perform: places where people are already happy. Yet with a crappy deck of cards I was able, for a short time, to cheer up a stranger who was clearly in pain and discomfort. Now, I’m not about to get all Patch Adams here, but it does seem to me that adults stuck in a hospital with not a lot to do are in just as much need of entertainment than children.

Another magician I have spent a little time with at the Circle is Ricardo Rosenkranz, or, as you might also call him, Doctor Ricardo Rosenkranz. His philosophy behind magic and healing is one I find utterly fascinating. Here is a man who has gone so far as to create a magic course for medical students at the Feinberg School of Medicine. But why? Aren’t medical students busy enough? From Dr Rosenkranz’s website:

In conjunction with the Medical Humanities and Bioethics Program at Northwestern, Dr. Rosenkranz created the nation’s first medical school curriculum for the study of magic and medicine. Created for first and second year medical students, these courses explore the performance aspects of medicine and the anthropological relationship between medicine and the magical arts.

Study upon study has shown that health and happiness go arm in arm. We seem to recognise that with children, so why can’t we do the same kind of thing for adults? In this country we do have a weird block when it comes to magic, thinking it’s ‘just for kids’. Performers like Dynamo and Darren Brown have done a lot of work to get us past that kind of thinking, yet it’s still very much there. But as I watched that gentleman in his bed sitting up a little straighter to watch me perform, I could see the positive effect I was having on him. We all like to be entertained, we like things that make us forget the stress and clutter of our day to day life. Magic is superb at doing that. How much better though can that effect be within a hospital? How much more necessary?

On top of all of that, I am pleased and terrified to announce that my one man show will be premiering in the Edinburgh Fringe. This is something I’ve had bubbling away in my mind for a long time, and now it looks like it’s going to happen. There will be a lot more information coming out over the next few weeks, but for now I just wanted to say thanks to those of you who encouraged me to put this all together.

 “Illusions of Depression” will be showing at Tollbooth Market, Gladstone’s Court, EH8 8BN from the 15th August to the 25th August.


Paul ReganComment