Sankt Wendel is a small town in north-eastern Saarland Germany, first settled during the Merovingian period (late 6th century).
It is the home to Georg Laur a jolly bonny event/festival organiser with a bad knee, creator of the International Street Magicians Championships, now in it’s 12th year.
I arrived a week earlier from Melbourne Australia to perform at a small lakeside gig in Boatsalee. Two days of enjoyable shows delivered between rain showers.
Georg then accommodated me wonderfully at his house for the next 5 days.
Now my residency is a hotel painted like a rainbow curlywurly 4 blocks from the site.
Acts were scattered in various lodgings around town others in their vans camping.
Wandering to Café Journal the magic meeting point I see Brando and Silvana from Argentina whom I had met in Spain a few years earlier. They have many routines, she normally impish in character and Brando a bemused Stan Laurel, great to see them again.
They had driven from Spain with another couple, Magic Sergio and his girlfriend. Sergio performed polished classic magic, producing a dove at the beginning and finished with the rings. We had discussions later regarding the dove;
Dove production early indoors may be all-good but methinks for the street the dove should be at the end of the show when you have capacity crowd not early while you are building your edge.
Magicians From multiple countries were appearing from all directions filling the empty chairs talking in numerous languages, Sebastien Desjardins from Italy and Philippe Lelouchier from Belgium sat opposite me and started chatting in French. There were Catalanos, Italianos, Lithuanians, Moroccans; numerous conversations in multiple languages surround me.
As well as the 16 participants of the festival there were 40 plus other magicians from all over just to hang out and to play on the open pitches on Sunday.
Ten-year-old Joscha Goethe came over to say hello, I had met Joscha before 2 years previously, great little performer big on charisma and the understanding of showmanship.
As the pack of magicians began to grow we got ushered inside, long banquet tables, roses hanging from the ceiling, and waiters taking orders.
Ben Zuddist a Londoner residing in Antwerp I’d last seen in Auckland sat down next to me, Ben performs cups and balls as Italian Gangster Benny Formaggio, olives as balls and bunch of grapes finale. Good to see him and have someone I can speak English with, my brain was tired trying to solve the language linguistics around my air space.
We were served food and given liquids of choice also envelopes with the usual, food tickets, town promo and the show schedules, 2 shows a day and extras on Sunday.
There were 4 main pitches.
Starting from the top of the town behind the church there was a decent size pedestrian space flanked by cafes. I was to follow Trabuk from Italy there on the first day in fact I was to follow Trabuk everyday. Sporting a smile that can cross borders, he has stunning misdirection with a shoe, a fluffy owl and a cell phone. Very clever original ideas delivered with captivating charisma, always leaving the crowd in good spirits, a great act to follow.
The weather had been looking dodgy; rain showers came in, as the first acts were to start. Trabuk and I were lucky we had back up, the ‘tunnel pitch’ a small walkway between rows of shops and some steps on the side –capacity 50 people. Rain gave Trabuk no choice but to tunnel it. I sat back and contemplated as the showers came in and out.
I tried to get a shopkeeper to open up his outside blinds for shelter, “Nien” he said as they were sunshades not rain covers! Got to love those Germans.
I took the gamble and played outside the tunnel grabbing a few exiting tunnellers to start an edge. Gamble paid off I got lucky; rain held and didn’t start until I was just hatting.
Not so much for Mario Morris I later found out, wrapped up in a straightjacket and chains when the heavens opened and people scattered for cover, he was left wriggling, dripping and wringing. “Still got a hat out of them,” he tells me afterward holding up a few wet fivers.
I’m not at all surprised his background was as a grafter and pitchman before a becoming a street performer.
As you walk around the church down the hill you come to the next pitch. People funnelled up from a walking street to the church, then split, meandering around a circle of cobbles in front of church steps.
I’d played this place before, standing up on the flat steps looking down, capacity crowd looking up at you.
This time I decided to reverse that and play looking up at the church trying to fill the front and then lock it in behind to work the round, my plan didn’t really work. Table was on a slope, balls rolling around bouncing at oblique angles off the cobbles, the edge and focus remained scattered throughout.
Later Sira aka Miss Minetti from Holland came into the backstage tent soaked, with trolley, props and wellies. Sira’s been on the scene for years doing an escape act she’s now trying a new magic show. Maybe it was good she wasn’t doing the escape, must ask Mario.
Tonight was paddy pub night, a tradition in these parts is they get as many magicians into an Irish pub to drink as many free Guinness’s as it takes for them to twirl the diddle i doe. Swinging around mimicking a tea-set in a tsunami I twirled, they twirled, we all twirled the diddle i doe.
During a particular twirl I bumped into Dan Berlin a young German street magician I met a couple years ago in Auckland, he’d just got back in Germany after being away in Asia and Indonesia for 2 years, great to see him and have a pint.
It was the wee hours when all diddle I doed off to various dwellings in the raindrops.
Waking up mid morning sometime during a hot shower. I towel, dress, go downstairs and ingest a variety of breads, cheeses, meats, coffee and juices, get my kit and go to work.
Milling in and around the backstage tent were a congregation of conjurers and crew, rain was patchy, sunbursts few.
To our right the setting for tonight’s gala show. A 10m2 stage that fluoro vested, hard hatted men had spent most of last night constructing.
As the clouds were clearing I see Sebastien Desjardins, a street performer for many years starting up. Earlier he’d been telling me he wanted to design a 10/15 min self-contained street magic act.
Well he certainly has done that, a waist high box containing a speaker and a 7ft lamp, (Lit for night shows) a remote within easy reach. Manipulation routine with cigarettes, pipes and multiple beer bottles. Great misdirection and crowd control certainly fooled me.
Up the hill I saw Tobi van Deisner working the church steps correctly, holding up a massive multiballoon motorbike looking down at a capacity crowd.
The bottom pitch in the Square had terraces of cafes along one side and the gala stage on the other.
I watched German Indian, Jadoo take the ‘badness’ from someone’s knee and Jardoo it into a chosen coconut, proving so by cracking it open to show it all dirty and bad inside whereas the other unchosen ones were clean and white. Later mentioned to Georg to go and see him.
The Gala was tonight 8pm, the rain started to come down hard at 6ish, a smattering of people under umbrellas occupied few of the hundred or so benches filling the square.
Georg appeared with raincoat, wellies and clipboard saying that a decision has been made, gala’s moving inside.
People streamed up the hill to a theatre/hall. Crew were running around with leads, boxes and lights and of course the rain was slowing down.
The show went on about half an hour later than scheduled. Hosted by a comedian Jojo Weib and his juggler partner Andreas Wessels, they started to play table tennis Andreas catching and popping balls with his mouth. Very funny, very skilful, culminating in multiple ball mouth juggling.
Albi Zauberfuzzi from Lichtenstein came on and performed a routine in German which involved a telephone call with magic Christian, big laughs from the German speakers, chosen card eventually came out of the mobile phone/fax machine he had.
Herz Konig did a vent act with 2 people from the audience great technique and very funny. There are some long words in German with a lot of b’s and his lips weren’t moving.
Silvana linked juggling rings and did a wonderful confetti from water snowstorm routine.
Spanish Guitar music started up and out came the matador of juggling, Andreas Wessels. With full size footballs and a guitar case he blew the crowd away moves I had never seen before, all perfectly bang on to the music. He closed his set juggling five footballs whilst balancing a ball on one foot and turning circles, skipping rope. Great act to end the first half.
After intermission out came Jakob Mathias who did a wonderful skipping rope cut and restored then produced a couch, turned himself into an old man and appeared from the back of the theatre in swimming trunks soaking wet, excellent stuff.
Andreas and Jojo came on again with an interesting routine where they tried to out do each other using matches’ candles and drinks, once again crack hot juggling skills combined with flawless German precision.
Mathias Romir performed ‘pinball paranoia’ dressed in white, looking somewhat like Alex from A Clockwork Orange. Original-yes. Quirky-yes finishing with a juggling puppet created out of his left knee crowd loved him.
Whole show was great, though for my liking a little long, The people gave a standing ovation and were clapping along as the artists took their final bow to Freddy Mercury singing “We will, we will rock you.”
I was knackered and one of the first to leave the theatre, back to the curlywurly by midnight and sleeping not long after.
Sunday was a more open affair as regards to the spots. We met up at 11am and Georg handed out the schedule, there were extra pitches creating room for additional magicians to perform.
I had a small gig at a sports club in the afternoon so did the early one, a nice flat area to the side of the church, crowd and me chilled out and relaxed went great.
After at a terrace café I decide to use one of my free food tickets and order a meal, I can’t read German so chose number 26. Minced bovine balls clad in mashed potato and flour with cabbage and gravy appeared on the table, it had taste it filled the gap.
Down by the stage a crowd of 60 or so had gathered, I walk down and see 10-year-old Joscha working the edge. A 15 year old twice his size was his volunteer. Joscha played him, did a change bag routine took the applause then bottled the money out of them pitching for bills, it made me happy.
‘Toot toot,’ my ride to the sports club gig had arrived. It was the 150th anniversary of the club and I was the entertainment, in the car I had visions I was to be playing after some sort of luncheon speech. We arrived, walk across the running track past high jumpers and through cheerleaders practicing pyramids into a gym, where people
were tumbling, swinging and stretching.
After discussing the best place for the show the curve of the running track outside was decided.
I set up in a demographic that I have never encountered before, on the inside corner of a 400m track. Staff dragged crash mats from the high jump area for people to sit on others lay stretching on the grass. Show went well, I think everyone was as shocked as me with what was happening in the middle of there training sessions.
They laughed and clapped then reset trampolines and teeter boards before continuing to balance and bounce as we drove off.
Back on the site Miss Minettti was performing her escape show to a large circle under the trees. Ted McCoy a crowd favourite was pushing his kit up the hill, a river of eager folk in tow.
The balloon twisters after an early morning feud had teamed up and were twisting their way into the hearts and wallets of punters by the steps.
My last show was in the square and I pulled a monster out the bag a very satisfying closer for me.
At the wrap party backstage sausages and various meats were being bbq’d by the Burgermeister (town Major) while tricksters, dignitary and crew dealt to crates of beers and bottles of wine.
A characture artist was cartooning everyone between drinks; I began to notice the more liquid consumed the more real the pictures looked.
People were leaving; I said goodbye to the whiskered Scotsman Ted McCoy, Albi, Trabuk and their families’ also local magician Magic Pete and crazy Rono Kertini.
Georg led the remainders of the pack to Café Journal. Sebastien Desjardins, Dan Berlin, Jardoo, Cie Santini, Mario Morris and Veronica and a Russian bloke who had driven for days in a Lada to attend the festival. Card tricks came out as we tried to misdirect each other between sips, gulps and laughs.
Georg left, glasses were empty, tricks and bribes were directed to the waitress but she wouldn’t budge, we leave no take-outs hustled.
We walk, the last three, Mario, Veronica and me sipping from the half glasses previously hidden in our sleeves, discussing that in any town, anywhere, a late night drinking place is open somewhere.
Walking we asked someone, they pointed yakking German- we followed the finger, and yes there it was. The Curazon, a small funky bar, piano at rear, cool drapes and funky collectables adjourning shelves and corners. We were immediately recognized and bought beers and shots.
The next few hours were spent in a kaleidoscope of tricks, gags, laughter and booze.
Waking up at around 10am I look out over my pillow, bags are all packed! Then remembering with joy that I had done them in a jagermeister haze a few hours ago.
Downstairs I drink half a carton of orange juice, eat an egg and sniff a coffee, Mario’s across the way compiling a cheese, yogurt and salami sandwich. Piles of coins were counted and room bills paid.
I Drag my self and gear to Café Journal to meet with Georg and Ben Zuddist (my ride to Antwerp), Mario came along for the stagger it was great to meet him and put a face to a name I have known for years. That’s the fantastic thing about this life travelling around meeting new and old friends, after hugs and goodbyes I get in Bens truck he drives. Great festival, not so big on hats but a great craic with great hospitality I’ll be back.
Opus would like to thank Nick for this review and photos… brilliant stuff in our view giving a true flavour of the Festival/Contest.
If I knew how to do a proper link I would but for the moment check out Nick Nicolas at… www.nicknickolas.com