Ollie Mealing, creator of Control and Recoil, has worked his share of corporate events, parties and other performances. One of the secrets to his success at a strolling gig is, surprisingly, parking it at a table. The following are his thoughts about what a table can do for the working magician.
For many years I’ve been a regular performer at large scale events and in that time, I’ve prudently geared my material towards working at my own allocated table – a format which I believe (for such an environment) leads to the greatest desirable outcome. The concept isn’t original or groundbreaking, and possibly underwhelming to hear, but simplicity is often complexity in disguise.
Within minutes of arriving at an event, you’ve noticed a large group of occupied guests, all gathered in a semi-circular fashion, their backs towards you, an oddity that quite literally stands out. The cause of their accumulation is currently indiscernible, but instantaneously your wise instincts raise a conclusive flag that SOMETHING in that vicinity is happening – a thing that evidently must be of value to have captured the attention and time of your fellow guests.
Your options are as follows: You can either stroll across and have your curiosity delightfully quenched, or secure a drink and engage in conversation, where the puzzling subject is destined to resurface. Both outcomes will ultimately end in your favour, as finally you’ll have discovered that the recent applause which cheerily beamed from the area of concern was generated most wonderfully by a magician — though ideally you’d have already acquired this knowledge firsthand & are partly responsible for that very applause, pleasantly finding yourself as a newly astounded contributor to the acclamation.
Now that your inquisition has been sated, you’re now privy to the secret and equipped with an exciting talking point. If you weren’t initially enticed, your swift beeline towards the action will imminently ensue, or amicably instead, you’ve opted to find a friend for the jaunt. But undoubtedly that moment of involvement is inescapably impending — perhaps when your social threshold needs recharging or, if you need an excuse to decamp or just simply because you’re too intrigued (the latter obviously being preferable), then you too will become an integral member of the alluring group, witnessing for yourself who everyone’s been talking about and feeling rejoiced that you did.
From that moment on, you spend your evening intermittently sharing the tale of your enthralling experience — continuing to propagate and embed a joyous memory.
After much deliberation, you’ve chosen the prime spot to base yourself. The guests are beginning to appear and all that’s entailed to bring forth your eventual hub of mystery and magic is to coax an audience into position.
From this point on, the fun is as much yours as it is theirs. A self-sustaining audience full of high expectations who have excitedly approached and accepted you in exchange for amazement — what more could you ask for?
Shortly into your set, you realize your performances are no longer disjointed and vulnerable to mistimed introductions, interruptions or imposing remarks, because whilst in your zone, the onus for a respectable demeanour is their duty. Under these circumstances, being surrounded by an enthusiastic, eager and cordial crowd, you’re able to relish in the perks of feeling at ease, you’re able to take full of advantage of copious table space without the flow-deadening hassle of making space and you’re able to maintain your optimal performance flow — which conveniently reciprocates back to the audience as reassurance, further building anticipation and establishing rapport.
Importantly, tricks can transgress to magic, as you’re able to partner your material with the attention it rightfully deserves — gratifyingly being able to provide your audience with the exact experience you want to instill.
This is all very well in theory, but in reality the advantages are only truly manifested if you’re able to fit the environment and deliver suitable material — for which, feasible adaptations may need to be made. But from my own experience it’s a worthwhile pursuit, as this presentational technique has immeasurably transformed the way I approach, view and enjoy a performance.
Discovering what works best for you and your audience is for me, the primary joy and key to creating magic — a personal process which unveils answers unique to you. I hope the above will prove worthy of your time & take you a step closer to a new and exciting revelation.