Recently Trendscendence had the pleasure of spending the weekend at Winchester University as part of the inaugural Art’s Lab. Based around the theme of magic (which we somehow managed to shoe horn our way into) the event was an interrogation of illusion, deception and intrigue.
Magic is often banished to its own little red light district of the entertainment world, in which the purpose and results of its tricks are desired and derided in equal parts. Theatre will come a knocking on the amber lit doors every so often, when it wants a cheap thrill, but it’s only ever interested in the ohs and ahs and has no time for the intricacy. I saw such a john of a show a few years ago at the Charing Cross theatre. A poor attempt to jump on the horror theatre band wagon, the show threw in illusions to punctuate an otherwise rambling narrative. The tricks where poor and unpractised and left the audience asking ‘why’ rather than ‘how’, but such is often the case with magic appropriation.
Our host, the award winning (and heart winning) magician and performer Sam Howard, prescribes to the school of thought that one must master any trick long before one attempts to perform it. The idea being that the mechanics of the trick should take none of a performer’s focus, which should all be concerted on the performance of the trick. This concept of mastery has long been out of fashion in theatre. Where once an actor would be expected to reach a high degree of skill in most everything (gymnastics, fencing, juggling, the list goes on) it is now enough to pretend mastery only when the situation calls for it and only to the exact specifications required. Of course no man can be all things but the magic of magic is in hiding the mechanics, and this requires work.
The fact also remains that these mechanisms are in themselves wonderful. For us the best discovery of the weekend was that of the core magician’s tenet of dual reality. This is a state in which the audience understands an effect one way while another subject, say a volunteer, understands it completely differently and yet both parties assume that their perceptions are universal. It’s a very simple idea and yet it says so much about how an audience members experience is perceived. There is a natural inclination to impose on others your own understanding of the world even, as in the case of audience participation, a person has been singled out to specifically undergo a different experience. They become the representative of the whole. Finding these inclinations allows us to manipulate the audience and gives us all the power that a word such as manipulate implies (look no further than physics and shamans for evidence of this).
There is a lot for theatre practitioners to take from the world of magic beyond the simple tricks. We have certainly gotten some good ideas and inspiration for our next work and I would advise any other performer out there to do their own research. There are a great number of resources available in books and online, you could even try asking for a few tips from any illusionists you may meet but one thing we have learned is that a good magician never reveals his secrets.
It’s 2016, this is when people in the past thought the future would happen. Shows what they know, the future isn’t scheduled to start until 2029. But while we’re waiting for that we all just have to get on with our lives and that’s exactly what Trendscendence are doing. We are working hard on a new piece that questions our journey as a species and our complex relationship with technology (so nothing too major). We have confirmed 3 exciting dates for Prototype (Phase 1) with more still to confirm so if you’re in Hastings, Sheffield or London watch out for us in your neck of the woods.
email : firstname.lastname@example.org