Paul Stone produced a sensational gala show at Eastbourne this year. As I watched it I was wondering whether such a superb show would put the other conventions galas to come to shame…well I needn’t have worried. Noel Britten together with Martin, Georgina and the rest of the MacMillan “family” produced an equally sensational gala show at the Shaw theatre on what I suspect to be a slightly smaller budget. Ron would have been proud of such a show. It had something for everyone.
Acts never seen before in the Uk including David Sousa, Ray Crowe, David Regal, TJ and Lex and Alina meant there was going to be lots to keep old timers like me happy (although I love to see my favourite acts over and over again.)
The opening act was, in a way, both old and new. Tina Lenert opened the show with her “new” act featuring the rings. I had learnt that Tina was still a touch nervous when presenting this piece. It didn’t show here and I thought she was sensational. Next on was Mike Caveney who was at his professional best and as funny as I had ever seen him. He hit the “swirling coffee cup catch” without breaking sweat and brought the house down.
New to me was TJ (same second name but not one of my relations) who caused serious excitement amongst the women sitting near me with his juggling on roller skates while going up and down a curved ramp in a skin tight, sporty costume. He did two spots in the show and was unbeilieveable skilled.
Closing the first half was Ray Crowe. When he started a billiard ball manipulation including juggling I thought the previous act might reduce his impact. I shouldn’t have worried. Ray completely “wowed” the audience with his diversity, charm and skill. His “Zombie-like” floating jacket was without doubt the best (and most rational) use of the principle I have ever seen and I say this not forgetting the late Tommy Wonder’s birdcage. Following this wonderful piece of magic Ray finished with hand shadows. Saying “finished with hand shadows” here is a bit like me reporting Jimi Hendrix “played guitar.” There are hand shadows and there are hand shadows…
The second half started with and audience fired up with anticipation. Tony Chapek did amazing stuff with a video screen. Indeed his use of this screen was superbly executed. Magicians love this sort of stuff as, indeed, I did… my only suggestion would be that Tony, having mastered the tricky timing needed in this set, now works more on his acting skills and onstage character to add conviction to the great magic.
TJ did his second piece and was followed by the man I had come to see… David Sousa. In FISM Den Haag 1988 the judges made a huge mistake by totally overlooking Lennert Green in the card magic section. It wasn’t quite as bad in Stockholm…David did get a major award… but to my mind and the minds of many people whose opinions I respect, David Sousa was the true Grand Prix winner in FISM 2006.
Here he did his manipulation act in front of both lay people and magicians. They both loved him. His clean, easy to follow but fooling, smooth manipulations performed to haunting music was, once again, brilliant and moving.
David Regal came with a big reputation but to me suffered from a few set backs. Firstly he was in an outstanding show and, in my mind, in the wrong position in that show. Secondly, I hate anything approaching mentalism no matter how well it is done…so… and thirdly a stomach hurting, massively, hugely funny piece from the compere, our very own Noel Britten, just before he was introduced can’t have helped him! Noel was quite simply the funniest I have ever seen him on stage. A joy to watch but not to follow…
Lex and Alina closed with their quick change act. Once again not my cup of tea but they closed the show colourfully.
Now the International Magic team have the tricky task of matching or improving this fabulous show next year.