Ipswich Magical Society Convention 2004
On the 7th November 2004 the Ipswich Magical Society hosted their 17th annual one day convention. It may not have been the biggest convention in the world, but the day was filled to the brink with a variety of lectures, dealers, close up performers and of course the evening Gala Show.

Hopefully this review of the day will encourage other magicians to attend similar conventions on a more frequent basis.

The lectures during the day were from three magicians, each at the top of their chosen field.

Dave Brown demonstrates his chop bowls First up was Dave Brown. I believe that Dave is relatively new to the lecturing circuit and it took him a little while to warm up, but it soon became really obvious that he is not only an extremely skilled and experienced full time working magician, but he is also very funny and has some amazing ideas that I believe to be unique to him.

I learnt a lot from Dave Brown. Not just from his lecture, Close-Up session and Evening show performance (Which I have to say was one of the highlights of the convention), but because he was also so approachable throughout the whole day. He was keen to talk about any aspect of this thing called Magic that we all love so much. In fact I don't think I ever saw Dave when he wasn't surrounded by a group of Magicians. From young up and coming hopefuls too experienced professionals, David always seemed to be at the centre of the discussions.

The second lecture (my personal favourite of the day) was from Andy Nyman. His chosen field of magic is probably best described as mentalism, although for me he always takes it that one step further. In addition to being a very skilled mentalist Andy Nyman is also a professional actor, a skill that goes hand in hand with his unique presentation of mind magic.

Andy's lecture wasn't just a collection of effects, he also gave many great insights into audience management and performing in general that were just as interesting (if not more so) than the actual effects themselves.

Andy Nymam performing Dead Zone as part of his lecture

Andy Nyman has such energy, presence and credibility when he is on stage that you just can't help but be drawn into his performances. I appreciate that mentalism is a very specialised field of magic, and one that isn't necessarily enjoyed by everyone, but I doubt that there were anyone present during his lecture that didn't enjoy it and come away with having learnt something.

David Tomkins The third lecture was from a true master of children's magic, David Tomkins. His talk revealed some great insights, not just into performing magic for children, but also into the art of ventriloquism, a skill that Mr. Tomkins uses as the backbone of his act. I have to admit that I do not do children's magic myself, and yet I still found his lecture both informative and entertaining.

When David Tomkins has one of his puppets on his arm, you do genuinely believe that there is someone else there with him on stage, someone else that is lightening quick to react to impromptu situations such as when a certain "Cheeky Dog" was inadvertently blinded by the flash of a camera (I did apologise afterwards. Honest!)

There were four close-up magicians this year, and in my opinion they are four of the very best. Three of which I am proud to say are active members of the Ipswich Magical Society.

Dave brown in his close-up halloween wizard costume The first one I watched was Dave Brown, complete with his amazing strolling wizard's close-up costume that even included it's own little self-contained stage area. This in itself shows how much of a professional Dave Brown really is, and how he is always looking for that unique idea that makes him stand out from the crowd.

Dave performed a variety of classic close up effects including a chop cup, coins, sponges and cards.

Next up was Matt Edwards. Matt was this year's (well deserved) winner of the Magini Shield Close-Up competition. He started by swallowing a balloon and then went on to dazzle and delight with a ring on string routine and ended up with what is fast becoming his trademark effect "Sam the Bellhop". No one ever comes away from watching Matt Edwards perform without their sides aching from the laughter. He is a true showman and a great magician.

Matt Edwards having fun during the close-up sesssion
Mike Rose. Close-Up Artist extraordinaire After Matt there was Mike Rose. It is easy to see why Mike Rose was a finalist in this years Magic Circle Close-Up competition. His routine was mainly card effects, but it flowed nicely from beginning to end. Much to many peoples delight he ended up with his own effect "The Grail" (soon to be sold by Alakazam). This is simply the best "Any Card at Any Number" effect I have ever seen. At the beginning of his set, a deck of cards was shuffled and handed to a spectator to keep, and from another deck a prediction card was selected. At the end of his set the spectator holding the deck was asked to name any number from 1-52 (in the case I saw it was 49). The spectator then counted down to the 49th card. This 49th card matched the selection that had been on the table the whole time. The remainder of the cards were spread to show that they were all different.

As to how he did it, I have no flipping idea and what's more he won't tell me!

Michael J. Fitch at the close up table The last Close-Up magician that I saw was Micheal J. Fitch. Yet another Ipswich Magical Society member. Michael Fitch is better known these days for his big stage shows but he proved yet again that he can adapt for any situation and gave a very skilled and entertaining performance.

He started with a nice ambitious card routine that was personalised with a spectators drawing, and ended up with Max Mavens Mockingbird, one of my personal favourites.

Richard Whymark as ozzy Osbourne I can honestly say that the evening show this year was one of the best yet. This is not just my opinion either. Everybody I have spoken to, Magicians and Non-Magicians alike, Adults and Children, all say exactly the same thing. We may all differ on the acts we found the most entertaining, but we do all agree that it was a truly magical show in all senses of the word.

Richard Whymark's Weight Challenged Ballerina As has been usual in recent years, the compere for evening was funny man Richard Whymark. As in previous years Richard left the audience always wanting so much more. In fact one year it would be very nice if he actually had a slot for himself. He filled in the gaps between sets with his own style of quick fire jokes and impressions that included Ali G, Ozzy Osbourne, and the "Weight Challenged" Ballerina (Believe me, you had to be there!).

To open each half of the show the audience (and the back stage boys) were treated to the delightful choreography of the Kay Goddard Coral Stebbing Dancers. Both dance routines were polished, entertaining, and in their own way very magical. This is another feature of the Ipswich Magical Society Convention that I feel makes it one of the best.

Dain Cordean. The first act of the evening was Dain Cordean. A magician I admit that previously I had only known by name. I did know however that he had won the Ipswich Magical Society's Paul Duncaine Cup three years running in the early 90's, so I was in no doubt that he would be very entertaining, and in no way was I disappointed. His act was a mix of jokes coupled with some truly astounding magic.

There were two main routines from his act that genuinely impressed me. The first was his multiplying pipes (of the smoking kind) that just seemed to be appearing from nowhere. I think he ended up with 10, but frankly I was so engrossed with the whole act that I lost count. This whole routine was performed in silence and was beautifully choreographed to music.

His finale was an enchanting "Dancing Handkerchief" routine that had the whole audience believing it was alive. This is a real classic of magic and I have never seen it performed so well. It was easily strong enough to end the show and yet we had only just started.

Next up was an act called Mistified, a.k.a. Steve Whitear. If I described him as a mere balloon modeller then I fear that many reading this will skip to the next part of the review, but you really shouldn't because calling Steve Whitear a balloon modeller, is like calling Rembrandt a "doodler".

With the help from selected children from the audience he managed to knock up some truly incredible balloon creations, and make it funny and entertaining at the same time. It is fair to say that he almost had to be dragged off stage, and yet I don't think there was a single member of the audience who wouldn't have enjoyed him continuing even longer.

The last act of the first half was Andy Nyman. Mind Magic may not be everybody's cup of tea, but as far as I am concerned I could have watched him perform all day. In my opinion no one does mentalist magic better than Andy Nyman (and I have seen many great mentalists this year alone, including Derren Brown, Marc Spelmann and Marc Paul, and I have watched the likes of Richard Osterlind, Banachek and Max Maven on DVD). Perhaps it is his skill as an actor that makes him so credible, but I believe that even those who claim not to be impressed by mentalism would have been entertained by Andy's act.

Andy Nyman.
I am still completely flummoxed by his book test, which seeing as it was me who was up on stage turning the pages of a freely selected book, I am still none the wiser as to how it was done.

Often mind magic is performed with utter seriousness, but Andy Nyman manages to project his "Cheeky Chappie" persona and at the same time maintain his credibility as someone who has truly spooky powers. I think it is this mix that makes Andy Nyman one of the best mentalists around today. If you haven't seen him perform than I strongly recommend that you purchase the "Get Nyman" set of DVD's.

Following a short interval and then the Kay Goddard Stebbing Dancers rendition of the "CanCan" was the special guest of the day, Dave Brown.

Dave Brown and the amazing jumping spider For many this comedy magic act was the highlight of the show. Comedy magic is very tough to get spot on at the best of times and yet Dave Brown made it seem so effortless. He is described as "A charmingly outrageous performer with subtle slapstick undertones of Jaques Tati, Charlie Chaplin and Tommy Cooper all blended from a Geordie heritage" and frankly I am not sure that it could be put any better.

His act was so packed with hilarious moments that I fear this may end up as a full on Dave Brown tribute review and not a review of the Ipswich Magical Society Convention so I will try and keep it brief.

There were several moments from his act that clearly stand out for me. The first was his comedy linking Rings routine that had me, and by all accounts the rest of the audience, in stitches. It couldn't have been funnier if Charlie Chaplin was doing it himself. The rings seemed to accidentally link to everything from button holes to braces to table legs, and in fact to anything you could possibly think of. I have seen other excellent comedy linking routines before but none came close to this one. Maybe it was the constant look of puzzlement on his face that sold it. I can't say for sure, but whatever he did worked and worked very well.

He then went on to disappear a silk from his hand. Nothing special there you may think, but remember this was the unique Dave Brown we are talking about. He insisted on showing the audience how it was done, which culminated in him removing his jacket and trousers to show a complex Heath Robinsonesque contraption of pulleys and slides that were operated by him opening and closing his knees. I would have loved to have taken a picture of this but was just laughing too much.

He then performed a classic thumb-tie routine. I say classic, but again he made it unique to himself. Previously I had not been a great fan of Thumb-Tie routines, but now having seen it performed so well I have revised my opinion of it.

The last part of his act had me laughing so much that again I forgot to take a photograph, for which I am truly sorry, as this would have been a photograph that would have been nice to keep in the Ipswich Magical Society Archives.

I should say at this point that Dave was dressed in the traditional magicians garb that included top hat and tails (without the top hat). Which reminds me, there was a beautiful little segue at one point, where finding a loose button on the jacket he performed a nice little "Chinese sticks" routine that seemed to puzzle himself as much as it did the audience.

Anyway, this last effect (at least the last one I will talk about) required the help from a selected volunteer from the audience, who was made to wear a full length blue robe that from the neck to the waist consisted of a picture of a half sized evening suited man. The neck was under the spectator's head and the feet were at his waist. By the time a table had been put under the feet of the "mini-me" Dave Brown, and Dave had moved behind the spectator so he could push his arms through two holes in the robe, the illusion was complete and fully animated.

From this position behind the spectator, Dave then proceeded to perform a small selection of magic tricks using his hands as the hands of "Mini-Dave". He even did a version of his earlier Chinese-sticks with the buttons, adding a nice degree of continuity that caused the whole act to flow effortlessly from start to end.

If you ever get the chance to see Dave Brown's stage act then I urge you to go. It IS big and it IS clever, and it is extremely funny.

David Tomkins and Mad Maggie David Tomkins, as previously mentioned is a top class children's entertainer, and being a variety show with many children present he went down very well indeed. For me, and I am sure many others, the highlight of his act was when he produced his little feathered friend. I think have said already that David Tomkins is one of the best working ventriloquists in the country. Whilst it is probably true to say that you could never see his lips move, this fact was in fact totally irrelevant, because when the bird was talking everyone was just far too engrossed in watching what it was doing and not what David's lips were doing. In short this wasn't a ventriloquist act. It was a double act with David Tomkins and his modest little friend.

Michael J. Fitch and THE Bubble Gum Machine The last act of the night was the one and only Michael J. Fitch. Michael is one of those skilled all round magic entertainers that seem to excel at everything they put their minds to. His act was a joyous mix of big magic illusions, and many moments of comic wizardry that had everyone from all ages, both laughing and amazed at the same time.

I think it fair to say that his grand finale, a funny routine that concluded with a bubble gum machine and a ring that he had earlier borrowed from an audience member (which was accidentally lost) did not go 100% to plan. Due to no fault of his own, there were unforeseen technical difficulties with the equipment that could have been, potentially at least, disastrous.

However, having said that, all the non-magicians that I spoke with about the routine (and even a few magicians) never suspected that anything had truly gone wrong. They all thought that it was part of the act.

This for me is a testament to a true professional who has the talent and coolness to joke and act his way out of any situation, even when up on stage in front of hundreds of people.

Can I really say anything more? To be honest I feel I have only just scratched the surface of what was for me (and I know many others) a marvellous day from beginning to end.

I think that the reason the Ipswich Magical Society Annual One Day Convention is always such a big success is that there is always such a great variety of acts.

It is possible that not everyone enjoyed every single act (although personally I did), but I would be amazed if there was anybody that didn't enjoy the vast majority of the day.

This all happened over a week ago and I am still buzzing from the experience. Hopefully this review will encourage other magicians to attend similar conventions on a more frequent basis because apart from seeing some great lectures and some fantastic acts, it gives us a chance to meet each other and the dealers that we all spend so much money with.

Reviewed by Simon Shaw