On Monday afternoon, the first day of FISM 2006, I managed to get a seat in the main room for this year’s Close Up Competition. It was the only time in the entire week that I would even attempt to get into the main room. With only 260 seats, space was at a premium. Next door, there was another room with another 508 seats where people could watch on a large screen. This was to be my base for the remaining 3 sessions, but for the first one I got to sample the performance room itself.
I should also say that for the majority of the competition, the camera work was horrendous. I was told by a couple of performers that when they went to rehearse the night before, they were unable to meet the camera crew to be able to tell them what they did and did not want – and it showed!
There were 5 categories being performed. Micro Magic and Card Magic were solely in the Close Up Category. Mental Magic, Parlour Magic and Invention were being performed in both Stage and Close Up Competitions.
One last thing before I get into this. This is not meant to be a "who did what" review for every act. You'll find that for most of the acts, but I have also put my personal thoughts about those that I had strong enough opinions about. If you want full "who did what" reviews, may I suggest you visit both Richard Morrell's magician.org.uk blog and Tim Ellis and Sue Anne Webster's Magic Unlimited Blog.
Session 1 – Monday
Juan Carlos (Mexico) – Parlour
Came on doing a Cups and Balls routine with patter about pirates. He had a couple of good ‘bits’ in his act – including where a ball rolled from one cup to another apparently on its own – and some great misdirection. Sadly, he did a sloppy Vernon Wand Spin Vanish. He finished his act by producing a miniature Pirate Ship. Sadly, that bit was a little clumsy, but it was a nice wee act to get thing rolling along.
Kristian Nivala (Finland) – Card Magic
Silent to music, this guy was the best of today's performers. Very slow production of 4 aces from an invisible deck, where he mimed pulling out cards and spinning them through the air and they appeared at his fingertips. They were then signed and lost in the deck, he produced a second deck of cards, jumbo aces and found the signed aces one-at-a-time inside the now empty card case and finished off producing a giant ace, jumbo coins and lots of dollar bills.
Mr Dannyman (Sweden) – Micro Magic
This Peter Kay lookalike (UK readers will know who I am on about) came out doing a 4 ace production with rhyming patter. As his act continued, the patter went from being mildly amusing to really annoying!
Morgan Strebler (USA) – Mental Magic
Borrowed a bunch of coins and bent one that was chosen out of them by a spectator. He then bends all the coins in the glass at one time. He then moved onto forks – bending, twisting and breaking them both at the neck of the fork and at each individual prong.
Rafael Tubino (Brazil) – Card Magic
Spectator selects 4 cards, which turn out to be the 4 aces. He then loses them (fumbling the controls) but proceeds to fool a good number of us with a great complete Colour Changing Deck to finish. Pity about the fumbles.
Satoru (Japan) – Micro Magic
A hyper-happy performer that appears to be wired to the moon! A card is selected, which is predicted on a 20SEK note. A gag with a chosen toothpick turns into a fooler when all the other toothpicks turn into coloured ones, leaving the selected on the only plain one left in the packet. He then gets spectators to stamp on cards to select them. When the cards are shown, he lifts his feet and shows that they are all predicted – the first on the soles of his shoes, the next on the soles of his socks and the last on the soles of his feet. He finally produced an umbrella from his socks with the final card printed on it.
Seth – The Sleight Of Hand Expert (Sweden) – Card Magic
Performs silent to music. Lots of flourishing cuts and card controls. Sadly, there is very little eye contact with the audience as he is too engrossed in his own moves. He does some excellent changes during the course of his act but fumbles a few shuffles during the act. Ends with the deck sorted into suits in order. Good act, but the lack of eye contact was VERY off-putting.
Pierric (Switzerland) – Micro Magic/Invention
Visibly changes apples to pears – VERY good! He then visibly creates money from a picture. A Cup and Ball routine in which the final load is one of sand. He then crushes the cup to dust to finish the act. Production of a ‘rabbit’ – actually a Guinea Pig with false ears stuck on! Very funny!
Session 2 – Tuesday
Lodewijk De Widt (Holland) – Card Magic
Performs silent to music. Draws on a pad and the drawing becomes a real deck of blank playing cards. Four are taken and they become the 4 Queens – faces and backs. Takes the blank case and prints the case and deck – very nice. Four spectators then select cards, all of which are torn into quarters. He takes a quarter of each card and restores it to make one mutilated card ala a Torn and Restored Card. The final quarter is put on back-to-front so that ¾ of the card faces one way, with the final ¼ facing the other way. Very original and very clever!
Stuart Lightbody (South Africa) – Micro Magic
Offers his spectator a small cup of tea, which changes to 4 coins – very nice. Removes lid from tea pot, which changes into his cup of tea. He removes his bowler hat and removes the tea pot lid. He then performs a marked coin to sugar packet effect, followed by a card in hat routine. A short Ambitious Card sequence follows, followed by a Colour Changing Deck, Card Under Glass, Card To Mouth and finishing with a repeat with the card folded up in his mouth. A good act with some strong misdirection in it.
Martin Keppel (Germany) – Mental Magic
Introduces his act and creates the atmosphere of it while holding his hand directly above the flame of a candle. He then proceeds to perform a very atmospheric yet, at times, funny “Smashed And Stabbed” routine in which the Spectator makes the final choice of which cup to smash her hand down onto.
Kif (China) – Card Magic
This guy spoke a thousand words a minute – or at least it seemed like it! Starts off with a bill switch, then goes onto a lot of card changes to produce the 4 Kings. The Kings turn into Aces, then uses Jack Carpenter’s “Star Production” to produce an 8-Queen Straight Flush. Proceeds to produce any poker hand called for, followed by all 13 Hearts. An OK act, but very, very confusing.
Mathieu Bich (France) – Invention
Mathieu presented a wonderful effect called “SpreadWave". He removed a blank deck from its case had a card named by a spectator. He then cut and spread his way through the deck to show that all the cards were blank. He then states that there are 3 cards in the deck. He spreads the cards to show 3 backs showing. Upon removing these cards, they are found to have words on them – one says “YOUR”, the next “CARD” and the last says “IS THE”. He arranges them then re-spreads the deck and printed in big, black, bold lettering across the spread is “NINE OF DIAMONDS.” The reaction in the video room, where I was watching the competition from, was amazing and had people discussing it for quite a while afterwards.
Gianfranco Preverino (Italy) – Card Magic
A blank deck is shown. A couple of them are changed into Jokers, then the whole deck is printed. He then does a Colour Changing Deck and Card Case, Roll Over Aces, Call To The Colours (nice touch with coloured stickers on the backs of his hands) and cuts to a named card. He then writes the named card on the back of the top card of the deck, only for it to then appear on the back of every other card in the deck.
Hoperman (Japan) – Micro Magic
Silent to music, but it’s Cliff smegging Richard’s “Summer Holiday”!!! Starts off as if he is at his desk at work. Some nice bits with a pen changing to a magic wand and a sign that says “In A Meeting” changing to “On Vacation”. Performs a 2-cup Cups and Balls routine which he fumbles a couple of times. Produces sand and mini palm trees for his final loads. Then starts to create a desktop beach scene with mini deck chairs, some water and some sand. He then takes out a map to look at it and when the map is put down, he has changed from his office clothes to his holiday clothes.
Iñaki (Spain) – Card Magic
Shuffles a deck of cards THEN removes them from the card case (I have since learned that this is Mark Lefler’s “Cards To Case” effect). Spectator selects 4 cards, which turn out to be the Aces, then does the Erdnase run-up using the mechanics of what he is doing as his patter. He then goes on to do a False Middle Deal and finally manages to deal himself a named poker hand.
Tobias Heinemann (Switzerland) – Parlour
Performs the Malini Card Stab, but performs it with many references to different classic horror/thriller movies, primarily “Psycho”. Nice touch in which he stabs the final card while the table is covered with a sheet of newspaper.
Ivan Amodei (USA) – Micro Magic
There had been a lot of talk about this act before hand as it has been winning numerous awards in America. I was also interested in it as it was based mostly around pool. Produces a “pool cue” (barely legal length for a jump cue) from a “Crackerjack” box, an 8-Ball, then uses manipulates tips ala thimbles. Using a small cue as a magic wand, he makes smaller balls disappear and re-appear in a purse, finishing with a cue ball inside the purse. This changes to a yellow 1-Ball. A second cue ball appears, which changes to a red 3-Ball (both from the Aramith Pro set (am I sad in spotting that or what?) and finally produces one final cue ball and a massive (bowling ball size) brown 7-Ball. Act was OK, but sadly not up to my expectations.
Woody Aragon (Spain) – Card Magic
Woody did what I thought was a very clever performance of Bill Simon’s “Call To The Colors” but instead of using a regular deck of cards, he used a batch of Jokers with red and blue backs, dealing them alternating red and blue, in pairs or in sets of 3. At the end of his act, the back of each joker was found to have a different coloured back. I like it!
Chase Curtis (USA) – Micro Magic/Invention
An act based around batteries. Taking batteries out of a torch, he makes them vanish only for them to reappear back inside the torch. The method was telegraphed somewhat. A short 2 In The Hand/One In The Pocket routine followed then multiplying batteries, Chink-A-Chink with bulbs and even a Cups and Balls routine. The stand out effect from his set was the vanish of a large battery from a big torch with it reappearing in another torch that had previously been shown empty. Sadly, the act was a little disappointing.
Helder Guimaraes (Portugal) – Card Magic
This was a great act – plenty of fooling magic and a lot of funny lines thrown in. Has a member of the jury imagine a card in an invisible deck being reversed. When the deck is made real, it turns out that it is the only card printed with a face and back in a blank faced deck. I was enjoying this one too much, but one thing I will say is that he has a “mystery card” under an upturned glass on the table the whole way through the act. He causes this card to first become a blank face card signed by the spectator, then a printed card with the spectator’s signature on it. Any switches he made, I missed – TOTALLY! There has been some talk in some of the magic forums about whether pre-show work was involved. Personally, I don’t think so but then I don’t care! I DON’T WANT TO KNOW HOW HE DID IT!!!
Radini (Norway) – Invention
Came out with a “Mini Photo Developer” – basically a bit or red acetate. More than a little crap!
Stonkel (Germany) – Card Magic
Another really funny act, this time involving a stooge planted in the audience that heckles the main performer throughout the first part of the act telling him what he should do (having certain cards at specific locations in the deck, producing certain glasses of beer, etc.), then secretly assists the performer in the second part. A very clever and well constructed routine that I wish I had taken more notes about!
Timothy Trust and Julie (Germany) – Mental Magic
A 2 Person Mental Act with some very funny lines and some fooling material – including divulging the birthdates of 4 members of the audience. A very clever and fast-paced act.
Session 3 – Wednesday
David Stone (France) – Micro Magic
Walks on as a waiter-type character. Uses a huge napkin (about the size of a bed sheet!) to produce a coin! Very very funny. Then produces 3 more coins. Each of the coins then turns into a piece of cutlery, finishing off the dinner table scene. The coins then re-appear and what follows are lots of running gags involving measuring tapes, vanishing decks of cards and wine bottles! A brilliant act with some amazing misdirection that I enjoyed too much to take notes of, but that finished with him producing both of his shoes!
Tricky Niki (Austria) – Card Magic
Produces a named card then makes a couple of predictions, which are found to be the only cards in a blank-faced deck. Not that good an act, until, that is, he manages to find a signed card inside a can of Red Bull. Very clever effect – shame about the rest of the act.
Kevin Gallagher (UK) – Micro Magic
Kevin came out and performed the act that has won him awards around the UK. Starting off with a regular Matrix, he then explains that the coins may be too small, so he takes out jumbo coins – too big for the cards to cover. So, he covers the cards with the coins and performs Matrix like that, with the cards jumping. Then he does it one last time with jumbo cards and jumbo coins. He then takes out 3 shells and a pea and does a short routine with that. Mentioning that maybe the pea is too small, he takes out a large pea, too big for the shells. He then uses 3 jumbo peas to hide the shell. Finally, using 3 jumbo shells, he performs a short Shell and Pea set. All very well presented, but he had an unfortunate fumble near the end. A fun act, nevertheless. I always enjoy it.
Alexander Popov (Russia) – Card Magic
This guy made some of the most complex in-the-hands cuts look like a walk in the park and could even give the Buck Twins a run for their money! This act seemed like 1001 ways to find a selected card – “maybe yours?” being one of the few phrases he could say clearly in English! Amazing stuff to watch!
Brad Bradley (USA) – Micro Magic
Another act with rhyming patter, but this one was different. It was REALLY, REALLY bad!!! This was so bad that people will be talking about it for years to come. Talking to us like we were 3-year-olds, he did a very basic paddle and cup and ball routine obviously unaware that it was barely up to local club level, let alone FISM level. Either that or he’s a comedy genius who knew what he was doing all along but that he played it too straight for any of us to realise it. This was, to use the Glasgow phrase, “quality shite”.
Harry Lucas (Austria) – Mental Magic
This guy comes out looking like Derren Brown – even down to the style of suit! After handing a prediction and stopwatch to a spectator to hold on to, he asked 2 volunteers – Mandy Farrel and Keith Bennett – to assist him first with a picture duplication, which worked, then with a gesture duplication effect, which did not work. At the end of his act, he stopped the stopwatch at 7minutes 5 seconds and showed that the prediction matched the time on the stopwatch exactly.
Mario Bove (Italy) – Card Magic
Mario gave the same competent “Gambling Demonstration” type of performance that he did at the International Magic Close Up Competition last November. Starting with the cutting of the 4 Kings, he then performed an “Invisible Palm” routine ending with the Kings turning into the 4 Aces whilst they were in the case. A Middle Deal demonstration followed with the other 3 hands each getting the Jacks, Queens and Kings. He then proceeded to find all 13 spades, one-at-a-time, in order and ended with the deck in full deck order. An enjoyable performance once again.
Will Houston (UK) – Micro Magic
Will did the same act that got him third place at last November’s International Magic Convention Close Up Competition in London. At that time, he seemed to have come from nowhere This time, we were expecting a good act and he delivered. He once again performed his excellent coin and card magic with seems to have influences of Apollo Robbins, Chris Kenner and Homer Liwag (does Homer really exist or is he a figment of Kenner’s imagination? Go get the current edition of “Magic” Magazine for an excellent interview with Kenner). His wonderful 4 ace routine (where the cards appear to move from hand-to-hand) that only used 4 aces – no extra cards were apparently used – caught me out again. Sadly, he fumbled the production of the first of 2 jumbo lighters, but it was still excellent stuff. He makes it look all too easy. I hate talented folk like him!
Guilhem Julia (France) – Parlour
Performing silently to music, this was an act all to do with fish. He produced a deck of cards which only had pictures of fish on them, then poured out some water and a goldfish from the apparently empty card case. He then proceeded to produce more fish from the likes of one of the cards and a lemon. He also had a production of a small aquarium and finished by producing a final fish from his shoe, with some more water, from his shoe.
Rocco (USA) – Micro Magic
This was an act that I would not describe as “Micro Magic” – Parlour, yes, but certainly not “Micro Magic”. This was, essentially, a manipulation act done silently to music. However, it was well done. He produced lots of food – grapes, milk, ice creams, limes, etc, etc. It seems to me that he was also getting his lunch break at this time as he was always taking bites out of most of the items that he produced. The act was well received, but it annoyed me that it was in the “Micro Magic” category.
Felix (Germany) – Cards
Started off with a Shrinking Card Case and a nice production of the 4 Queens. Unfortunately, he fumbled and dropped his cards onto the floor. Fortunately, he had a back up deck and a great line (“time for a deck switch”) and concluded his act. Unfortunately, I didn’t connect with this act and therefore found it fairly boring.
Ray Ben (Argentina) – Invention
Ray showed a method for producing cigarettes, first one-at-a-time, then producing a packet. He followed this for a method for producing a silk inside a bottle and finally a clever method for getting a selected card into and out of a bottle. All very clever and very commercial stuff.
Charming Choi (Korea) – Card Magic
This guy couldn’t have been any camper if you put him in the middle of a field and called him a tent! He tried to have a King and Queen from a deck of cards make sounds, but he had technical malfunctions that apparently stopped him from doing most of the act that he wanted to. To the audience’s left of the table was a large object, covered up with a cloth, and we all wondered what was under it. Well, we were soon to find out. He changed a bunch of playing cards into plain black and white cards and then dealt them out in a couple of rows in the style of a piano – which played. All of a sudden, the audience are singing along to “Do Re Mi” from “The Sound of Music” – THE single most bizarre thing I have ever seen in any convention EVER!
Galambos (Hungary) – Micro Magic
Galambos came out and performed the same act that won him International Magic’s Close Up Competition at the end of 2004. From his Aces routine and MacDonald’s Aces to his Cups and Balls, everything seemed to be going OK. He had a couple of minor fumbles through the routine until a massive foul up when starting his performance of Dean Dill’s “Matrix Explosion” caused him to finish his routine abruptly and walk off the stage.
Gregory Wilson (USA) – Card Magic
Wilson got a great response when he walked to the table, both in the live room and the video room where I was watching, and performed the act that had got him 2nd place at the last FISM in The Hague, with the table being his office. He poured a cup of coffee out of his card case, had a card isolated on a spike named correctly by a spectator and made a signed selection vanish from his hand and reappear sealed inside a deck of cards. However, the gremlins were back at work during his act, as they were in the previous one, and Gregory failed to stab the 10 through King of Spades that would have made up the finish of his act. A real pity as the act was excellent.
Mark Oberon (UK) – Micro Magic
Mark has had a lot of success in the UK with this act in different competitions and it was good to see it again. My personal highlight of the act was a named card appearing inside a crystal ball – absolutely brilliant! But those gremlins were back again has he had problems while performing the “Zimmerman Ring” – he did, however, prove that he was prepared for any eventuality when he brought a new rope out after he suffered difficulties. An excellent routine. Just a pity about those damned gremlins. They cost the last 3 acts – all considered “pre competition favourites” – to have major problems of one type or another.
Session 4 – Thursday
On paper, this was the strongest session of any Close Up Competition I had ever seen. We were not to be disappointed but with one added extra. I’ll get to that in a moment.
Shawn Farquhar (Canada) – Micro Magic
Purple suited Shawn performed the act that gave him joint second place at the last FISM. He managed to cause a deck of cards to go backwards in time, re-sealing itself and having a signed selection in the correct position in the deck. He then did a great Cups and Balls act that ended with a load of smaller cups coming from under one of the cups only for all 3 cups to turn out being solid blocks of steel. A brilliantly funny act.
Alex Stone (USA) – Micro Magic
Alex started with a lot of science-based patter. Unfortunately, the act was – how can I put it – crap! He dropped a coin at one point early in the act, to which his only response was “Oh sh*t!” This got a big laugh in the video room, but things were to get worse as he tried a very, very basic Matrix with jumbo coins and cards. After continually shuffling his cards under the table (why?!?!?!?!), the judges decided that they had seen enough and asked him to stop.
Kiko (Spain) – Card Magic
He spread the cards across the table and started to blow cards out of the spread. As he did so, he managed to produce the 4 Aces – a very, very nice production. He asked for a suit to be named (Hearts) and proceeded to produce all 13 Spaces in order – then changed them into the 13 Hearts. He did a great assembly-style effect where the aces were placed under a sheer cloth and made to vanish visually and reappear on top with the other aces. It was a great effect, sadly the method of the vanishes seemed a bit obvious but a great effect nevertheless.
Simo Aalto (Finland) – Micro Magic
Aalto won the Micro Magic category in 2000 with his “Bell Act”. This time, he came out with cards and coins. He produced a deck of cards and a purse with some coins in it. He continued by manipulating a jumbo coin. A 4 card/2 coin Matrix was followed by the same with jumbo coins, then he produced more coins – each one being bigger than the last.
Joker Magic (Hungary) – Micro Magic/Invention
Performing silent to music, this performer produced a finger ring which he then moved from one finger to another without taking it off. He later vanished the ring, only for it to reappear inside a matchbox that had just been produced from a card case. He also made it reappear inside the card case.
VIP Magic (Netherlands) – Card Magic
VIP Magic (Emiel Lensen and Rob Mollien) presented an act based around a duel between a sharp-suited businessman (Emiel) and a tough street guy (Rob). Some great flourishes to produce the 4 aces time after time with each one trying to out-do one another, although there were a few fumbles but they were very well prepared – when they dropped an ace, one was immediately pulled from a pocket. An enjoyable act.
Martin Eisele (Germany) – Micro Magic
Martin performed the same act that had won him last year’s International Magic Close Up Competition in London involving his guest appearance on a fictitious kid’s TV show starring “the little orange mouse and the blue elephant”. He played the part of the nervous magician brilliantly attempting to do his “four coin trick” only with five coins constantly appearing. He performed a series of matrix effects, including one done in “fast forward” mode – all accompanied by a very funny voice over. He even did a Matrix involving cartoon sound effects of the mouse and the elephant as each coin moved. He also did a wonderful routine with cards and dice with the cards leaning against the dice so we couldn’t see them, but when he lifted them, the dice had vanished. With the cards flat on the table each dice reappeared under each card – we saw the each one of the cards tilt up onto their edges by themselves and when he lifted to cards the dice were back. As he left, he took his close up mat to produce “the little orange mouse and the blue elephant” that were the stars of the TV show. A great act and another great response.
Rick Merril (USA) – Micro Magic
Another act that had been seen at last year’s International Magic Close Up Competition in London. Rick was awarded second place in that competition. He starts off by producing 3 silver dollar coins, then changes them, one-at-a-time, into Chinese coins with holes in them. He turns them back into the silver coins then changes them into jumbo coins, only for these to change into jumbo Chinese coins! Brilliantly done and I have no idea. Then, off came the jacket and he started his act with a Sharpie marker pen and a coin. Productions, vanishes and transpositions were all included in this routine which is very, very visual. He ended with what he called his “Sharpie Impressions” – Lennart Green, Penn and Teller, Uri Geller and Doug Henning were amongst those that made a Sharpie-style appearance. Great fun and a great response in the video room.
Jon Armstrong (USA) – Card Magic
There had been a lot of talk that Jon was someone to watch out for in the Card Magic category. He had 2 spectators each peek the same card – clever. He then stuck a card to his forehead but it was neither of the 2 selections that the spectators had made – instead had them go into his wallet in what seemed to be a very quick-thinking out. As he tried to deal out the spectator’s telephone number with the playing cards, he ran out of time and was, sadly, disqualified on time.
Hayashi (Germany) – Micro Magic
The final act of the whole competition was Hayaski who came out and performed 9 versions of Matrix (what was it with that damned effect this year?!?!?!), including one that was performed one-handed! This was very well received. As he performed, groups of 4 coins would appear under the cards, even 4 jumbo coins. Technically, a very very good act.
Phew! Finished it all at last! I'll post more thoughts on the whole of FISM and a bunch of pictures in the coming days.
The Cardman :-)