Recently I posted a question on Facebook asking what makes great magic great. I received lots of interesting answers. So, I thought for this blog I’d share my feelings on the topic.
What is “great” or “strong” magic? What are the criteria? Well first of all, there’s not just one answer. I believe it takes several factors. And also, “great” is a subjective term. Since magic is an art, this is fair. What one magician thinks is good may not be considered good to others. So, for this blog, I’ll be talking about magic that is created and performed for a lay audience. (Ya know, how it’s supposed to be.)
Here are factors that make magic strong:
Is it truly deceptive? Magic must fool people. Even if you are the greatest performer and you have the best presentations and your character is on point, if you flash or the audience figures out the method, it’s over. It’s not strong magic any more. You’ll lose all credit for the effect you’ve attempted. Not only that, the rest of the show will suffer due to them catching you. They’ll watch the rest of your show looking to catch you again rather than enjoying the act. Magic should be a complete mystery that no matter how much they think about the effect, it’ll always be impossible for them to solve.
Does your effect have some sort of presentation? I’m not suggesting that only good magic must have a spoken script. Even acts that the performer doesn’t speak can still have a premise. Look at FISM winner Yann Frisch. He didn’t say a word, but we understood what was happening in his act. I believe strong magic should have a story or a plot that you’re telling as you do the magic. This makes for a more immersive experience for your audience. This allows you to create tension and resolve during the effect. And of course, the magician needs to deliver this story properly. We’ve all seen movies that had potential but the leading actor ruined everything due to his poor acting skills. Thanks Keanu. Speaking of character…
Do you have a well-defined character? The magic itself is one thing. However, it’s being delivered to the audience through the magician. If he or she is an interesting and engaging person, the magic will be even stronger. If the audience knows the character, they’ll understand why you make certain choices. They’ll see what motivates you. It doesn’t matter if you play the part of a shy introvert or a cocky egomaniac, smart or stupid, etc. As long as it’s defined, I believe your magic will translate to the audience more effectively.
Is the effect logical? This seems to be a controversial topic in magic. We do the impossible. So it seems like putting a signed bill in a lemon is a good idea. That IS truly impossible. But did you ever stop and think about how silly that is? Yes, that’s an impossible location and yes it gets a great reaction. But why are you putting money inside fruit? I don’t put money in fruit. I put money in my wallet. I want to perform magic that’s logical. I don’t want my audience to ever think, “Well, that’s amazing, but why did he do that?” If they understand why I’m doing things, and those things are being done for a good reason, I believe that the magic will be stronger.
Clarity. Is the effect clear? What good is magic if you’re just confusing the audience? Even though magic involves bending the rules and twisting reality, you can still make what you’re doing crystal clear to your audience. We’ve all seen movies where we just stop caring because the plot is so convoluted that we just don’t know what’s going on anymore. Thanks Matrix Revolutions.
It doesn’t matter if you do magic with coins, cards, rubber bands, stage illusions, parlor, mentalism, or street magic. You can still perform strong magic. Strong magic isn’t defined by one thing. Strong magic is magic that’s truly deceptive. It has a clear premise that’s delivered by a strong and engaging performer. The effect is logical and it has meaning. The performer can create tension and drama taking the audience for a ride. If you hit all these elements, your magic will reach the audience on a deeper emotional level.