01 December 2005

Ron's Part 2: The 34th International Magic Convention, London

My now annual trip to London to attend this year’s International Magic Convention – aka “Ron’s Day” (even though it lasts a full weekend) or, simply “Ron’s” – which is run by the MacMillan family who own and run International Magic in London is always something I look forward to with great anticipation. Getting to see old friends and make new ones – the usual stuff for a Convention. But there is always the calibre of the performers and lecturers that are booked to participate and the now famous International Close Up Competition, now called the Kevin Reay Trophy after the first winner of the Competition who passed away in 2004, which has to be one of the most prestigious in magic. With £1,000 to the winner, it is normally a showcase for brilliant performers to make their name and the list of previous winners reads like a who’s who of Close Up Magic.

Like last year, the venue was the wonderful Shaw Theatre, which is right next to King’s Cross Station and in the same complex as the Novotel Hotel. The setting here is perfect with good seating and excellent views of everything going on on-stage from any part of the auditorium.

There was an attempt to make this year’s Convention special as it was the first one since the passing of Ron MacMillan, the man who started the Convention off in 1972. Without him, then performers such as David Williamson, Juan Tamariz and Lennart Green would not be as well known in the UK as they are today. John Derris, the host of all the events during the convention, paid tribute to both Ron and to Bob Read, who had died a few days before the start of the convention.

This year’s convention started on the Friday evening with 2 lectures. One by Kostya Kimlat from Florida and one by Roberto Giobbi of Switzerland. Kostya’s lecture was excellent with his main “thing” being his “Roadrunner Cull” and a few effects using it. He also performed a great “Collectors” routine in which the 4 Kings (to be used as the Collectors) vanished from their position on top of the card case and reappeared in the middle of the deck trapping the selections. Brilliant stuff and a great guy as well. Roberto’s lecture was very interesting incorporating not only a “how” but the “why”, incorporating theories from Ascanio and Tamariz with the stand-out effect being his handling of the Card to Lemon. All in all, a very interesting couple of hours.

Saturday saw the 22nd International Close Up Competition and what a mixed bag it was. Since I’m good to you all, I took a bunch of notes and you can read my memories of the competition – not necessarily a “who did what” for each one – below this post.

There were also 2 more lectures on the Saturday – one from David Merry of Canada and one from the legendary Jerry Andrus from Oregon. Due to hunger, I didn’t get to see the David Merry lecture, but by all accounts was very interesting, well received and full of excellent stuff – both magic and gags. Jerry Andrus, at 87 years young, proved that he was still capable of fooling the most knowledgeable of magicians really, really badly. His “Illusion Of The Yellow Ball” and “Zone Zero” creating audible gasps as a 2” yellow rubber ball appeared and disappeared in amazing circumstances. Sure, his brain wandered from time-to-time, but when he did some magic he was fooling us all really badly.

Saturday night saw the first of 2 performances of the Gala Show. Since I was going to see it on the Sunday night, we went out for a meal instead.

Sunday saw “Ron’s Day” itself. The dealers opened at around 10:30am and with Dealers from around the world, it was difficult not to find something that you liked. The first performance part of the day was the Close Up Gala, which included Roberto Giobbi, Jerry Andrus, Rick Merrill, Kostya Kimlat and Arthur Trace. Trace, the only performer in the line up that I hadn’t seen previously during the weekend, performed a different routine that started 15 minutes into the future and who’s end was signalled by a bite appearing back in the apple that he had bitten into and restored at the start of the act.

One thing I must note here is that right before the Close Up Gala, tribute was paid to the late, great Bob Read who died the week before the Convention. It was a great reminder of how great a performer he was, as well as what a great loss he is – not only to magic, but also as a person.

After this, the results of the Close Up Competition were announced (see previous blog entry) and then it was time for Rick Merril’s lecture. Rick’s lecture (which he will also be presenting at Blackpool) was excellent and full of excellent, workable material, including a great extension in using the Cheek To Cheek deck. He also explained parts of his award winning Coin and Sharpie routine that we had seen a couple of times already during the weekend.

A special event had been promised in the build-up to the event and when everybody started reading their programmes, they saw that 4pm on Sunday was the time. Derren Brown was going to take part in a Q&A session. A bit of a scoop for International, given how busy Derren is these days with a TV series, 2 annual TV specials and an ongoing tour. The session was in 3 parts – the first part was an interview conducted by Duncan Trillo of www.magicweek.co.uk, the second part was the screening of a couple of routines from his new series, due on our screens in February/March and the third part was a Q&A session with questions from the audience. Derren was interesting and entertaining throughout and if the clips that we saw are anything to go by, the new series looks excellent. He even did a drawing duplication routine that was as clean as you could get – the subject being sat in the middle of the audience drawing his picture which Derren managed to divine the drawing of a cat at the second time of asking.

The Gala Show finished off the programmed events for the weekend. My personal highlights were David Shiner of America who did a couple of brilliant mime pieces (one involving one member of the audience and an imaginary car journey, the other being with 4 members of the audience taking part in a movie), David Merry from Canada who was hysterical with prop and sight gags, Noel Britten’s once again being host for the Gala Show, the tribute to Ron MacMillan and getting to see Omar Pasha’s brilliant Black Art act live once again.

I could have written a 3 word review of the Convention – “IT WAS GREAT”, but that wasn’t enough. All told, it was a great Convention – my favourite since FISM in The Hague in July 2003! Congratulations should go to the organisers and I’m already looking forward to the last weekend of November 2006 for the 35th edition of “Ron’s.”

Speak soon

The Cardman :-)

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