The Ipswich Magical Society. Hickson Cup 2006
The Hickson Cup for me has always been one of the many highlights of the calendar year, and this year, the 41st Hickson Cup (since records began) was no exception.

There were 8 acts in all, a few of which filled in at the last minute as in the last week we had several cancellations to contend with. Well done to compere Daren Morgan for organising the whole event.

At the start I don't think Daren quite realised how difficult it was actually going to be to compere an event like this. After all, when Ted Lumby or Richard Whymark do it they make it seem so effortless, but it has to be said that after a slow start he came into his own and he helped make the whole evening go with a swing.

Ray Crosbie
Ray is certainly no stranger to the stage at the Ipswich Magical Society and in so many ways he was the perfect opening act.

Ray Crosbie It may be true to say that not all the magic went immediately to plan (or did it? I can never tell with Ray), but his charm and natural comedy talent came through in abundance. Without doubt, Ray Crosbie knows how to be entertaining. Everyone was in tears of laughter. I think if Tommy Cooper had been there himself, he couldn't have been as funny as Ray.

Actually that reminds me of his performance in last years competition, where I believe I may have said something similar. However, if I am honest I have to say that his performance this year was a hundred times better than last year. It seemed to me like last year he was actually trying to emulate Tommy Cooper and make things go wrong from the outset. This really didn't work very well at all for me. This year though, it seemed that he was just being the Ray Crosbie we all know and love.

There is only one Ray Crosbie and it should be no surprise to anyone that he has won both the Hickson Cup and the Vera Smith Cup on several occasions. It wasn't to be so on this night but if it had of been, I for one would not have been surprised. Well done Ray. A great performance.

Duane Tucker
Duane was one of the acts that were kind enough to fill in at the last minute, which is a shame as if he had a little more rehearsal time available to him I believe that he has it within himself to be a future winner of this competition.

Duane has a natural talent for patter and scripting and that combined with his sense of theatre makes him a natural performer. He also has great audience management skill which many of us, professional and amateur alike would do well to learn from.

He begin with a very nice card routine with his chosen spectator acting as a human photocopy machine. After this he moved on to misers dream/Six card (well 6 coin) repeat type of affair that consisted of an old lady, her magic bag, 6 coins and a casino. If there was a prize for originality then Duane would be right up there and as I said before, Duane Tucker will before long be a winner of this competition. Mark my words.
Duane Tucker
Rob Cope
I have no doubts that Rob Cope will go as far in the world of magic as he wants to take it. He has already developed his own brand of "in your face, cheeky chappie, cockney comedy magic" and he is always such a pleasure to watch whenever he appears.

As with Duane Tucker, Rob also filled in at the last minute, and yet still he managed to create an innovative 007 themed act full of comedy and magic. Perhaps on the night there were more jokes than magic, and this was perhaps a reason why he didn't win but nevertheless Rob was one of the most entertaining performers present.
Rob Cope
Nick Chapman
I have reviewed the magic of Nick Chapman on the website several times now and to be honest I am running out of different ways of describing how wonderful I think his act is. In short his performance was magical in the purest sense of the word and he was a very deserved winner of the 2006 Hickson Cup Trophy.

Nicks silent (but wonderfully choreographed to music) act always reminds me of the traditional magicians of yesteryear, although today he is more likely to be compared to the likes of Scott Penrose or Roy Davenport.

He started out with his classic linking rings routine, followed some fancy card productions, his razor blade swallowing routine and then my all time favourite his floating zombie ball. I have seen Nick perform the zombie ball routine many times now but on this occasion I feel he managed to reach a whole new level.

The large red beach ball sized object really did seem to have a life all of its' own and was seemingly flying about the stage, almost dancing to the music with Nick almost just being an incidental part of the whole affair.

It is obvious that Nick has performed this routine many times now and as such the fact that it was so polished meant that this was always going to be the act to beat.
Nick Chapman
Michael J. Fitch
Michael is one of the more experienced magicians that took part, and this was obvious the moment he walked out on to the stage.

Michaels act was a well thought out and perfectly executed set of routines that flowed together from beginning to end with fluency, comedy and above all magic. Lots of it!

Michael J. Fitch In just the space of just 10 minutes, we were treated to a Pavel style moving knot routine (with the help of two spectators), a great chop cup routine (as it happens one of many that night), that included some great "Duncaine Trophy" worthy golf ball productions). I should add that the whole Chop Cup routine was a great demonstration of misdirection that even Michael Ammar himself would have been proud of. The final load was a lemon which was given to an audience member as a prize. This was a really nice idea for several reasons, but more of that in a moment.

Michael then did his own great two phase version of card in balloon (which itself included a nice production and vanish of a candle!), and as if all this wasn't enough, for his finale he performed a signed bill in Lemon, and yes, you guessed it - the same lemon that was handed out as part of the chop cup routine. How's that for continuity!

All this magic and he had it timed so perfectly that the 10 minute buzzer went as if on queue, the moment the signed bill was unfolded after being removed from the Lemon. This was a great act and Michael has proved once again why he is such a successful professional magician.

On the night Michael J. won of the Vera Smith Cup (for runner up) but I am just glad that I wasn't a judge as I wouldn't have been able to decide between him and Nick Chapman.

Marc Jacobs
Marc Jacobs is without question an incredible performer. I have said it before, and I will say it again. He has a mental persona that can send shivers up your spine.

The Hickson Cup was always going to be a difficult venue for a mentalist to excel in, but for me it was a welcome contrast from the other acts. Personally I feel we should have at least one mentalist perform every year.

Marc begin by using whatever 6th sense skills he has to name a genuinely freely selected card. This was just a quick appetiser though for what was about to come.

The body of Marc's act was a Russian Roulette style routine with 5, very evil looking staple guns and four extremely nervous looking spectators.

On the table were 5 envelopes, and 5 staple guns. The staple guns were numbered from 1-5 by a fifth spectator. Only one of the guns was loaded with staples. The others all fired nothing.
Marc Jacobs
Marc then drew a different picture on each of the 5 envelopes. One by one, each of the four spectators choose one of the envelopes. The envelope contained a number and the staple gun that corresponded to this number was then picked up by the fifth spectator, who removed the safety catch and fired the staple gun against the hand of the trembling spectator.

I am just glad it wasn't me that was called up to help, as wetting your pants on stage is never a pleasant experience!

With one gun left, Marc demonstrated that there was indeed staples loaded in this last gun, as at the end it was fired against a book.

I would like to think that with routines such as this, Mentalism really does have a future in the Hickson cup.

Richard Whymark
It has be said by some that I do not mention Richard Whymark's name often enough in my reviews and Newsletters (and you know who you are Richard!).

If that is so then I really do owe him a big apology, because Richard Whymark is not only one of the best comedy magicians we have in the society, but I suspect in the country.

Richard Whymark I have seen him perform live many times now, not just at the society and conventions, but also in his one man show at Stowmarket last year. If you missed it you really should make a serious effort to go if he does another one.

Sadly, due to unseen circumstances I had to miss the show he did with Andy Leach at Leiston at the end of 2005, but I have since seen the DVD that was produced as a result and I just have to say that the cover design is truly awesome!!

Anyway - I digress, back to the Hickson Cup. The point I was trying to make is that it was never going to be a surprise as to how good Richard Whymark was going to be. As a working professional, we always except so much from him and time and time again he doesn't disappoint. Monday 22nd May 2006 was no exception.

Richard Whymark makes performing seem so effortless, and although I myself still have limited performing experience, I do know that that simply isn't true.

Although outside the society Richard is known more as a comedian than he is a magician on the night he proved himself to be every bit the magician and I have to confess that his chop cup routine was nothing short of excellent. It was good to see a duck (or two) make an appearance as well.

Other magic he performed on the night was a Macdonald's straw production (You had to be there, but it played a lot bigger than it sounds), his trademark (sucker) disappearing beaker routine and a very funny Rocky Racoon, Zig-Zag girl illusion all done to music.

The thing that comes across from watching Richard perform is that it is constant entertainment, from beginning to end.

Richard is a several times winner of the Vera Smith Trophy (in fact between 2002 and 2004 I think he owned it) and he was certainly a contender for an award this year. It only goes to show how strong the rest of the field was when a performance like this fails to win a prize.
Richard Whymark and Rocky
Bill Burch
Once again I have been fortunate enough to have seen Bill Burch perform on stage several times now. Amongst other places he has been fine tuning his act at the various at-homes we have been doing recently.

I will say at the outset that I will never tire of watching Bill perform. This guy always has me in fits of laughter and there is always a surprise to be had.

Bill Burch He has developed his very own style of magic that makes me smile the second he walks on to the stage and he starts waving that foot of his about in time to the music. I was going to compare him to the likes of Tony Hancock or Victor Meldew, but to be honest with you the only person he should be compared to is Bill Burch. Bill has successfully created a persona for himself, and the magic has been built up around it. It is no surprise that he is a two times winner of the David and Doreen Children's competition. This was his first (to my knowledge) entry into the Hickson Cup, but hopefully from know on we will se him enter future competitions because we really do need to see Bill Burch perform more. Happiness is good for the health, and watching Bill makes me happy.

If there had been a prize for Comedy Magic then Bill Burch's name would have been right up there. That isn't to say though that there isn't some great magic included in his act.

Normally I would say it was a disadvantage going last in such a competition, as several of his effects had already been performed by other magicians. However his Dingle, Dangle Chinese sticks routine and his chop cup routine are so much his own that this fact really didn't matter, and as to why his flower manipulation didn't win the Paul Duncaine Trophy - well wonders will never cease.

Bill is another member of the society we all should be proud of. Watching him perform is always going to be fun.

Hickson Cup Winner Nick Chapman
Vera Smith Cup Winner Michael J. Fitch
Paul Duncaine Cup Winner Not Awarded
So there we have it. After a short amount of time for the judges to have a brief discussion, and for all the points to be added up, the winners were announced.
Nick Chapman with the Hickson Cup
It has to be said that at the time I was somewhat surprised by the fact that the Paul Duncaine trophy was not awarded this year. It is meant to go to the performer who includes the most impressive manipulations, and although it does not have to be awarded if there were no such manipulations I felt this year of all years there were several reasons why it should have been awarded.

To name just a few, Michael J. Fitch's Golf Ball productions or Nick Chapman's Card productions to Top hat would both have deserved the award, not to mention Bill Burch and Richard Whymark's chop cup routines, and of course Bill's Flower Production (twice!).

Perhaps this trophy and the guidelines for when it is awarded should be re-discussed at the next AGM.

As we are talking about manipulation I should also say that Michael Fitch's Lemon switch was also a real joy to behold. Although I didn't see it actually happen (If I had, I probably wouldn't be mentioning it). I did know that it had occurred. It was another excellent example of a great move executed with perfect misdirection.
Michael j. Fitch with the Vera Smith Trophy
I would say that the winner and runner up were both very well deserved as their acts both constituted the most amount of magic that was seen on the night, but that doesn't mean that all of the other acts were any the less more enjoyable to watch.

All in all I would say that the entire night was a real credit to the society. We have some really great performers amongst us at the moment and the whole night was as enjoyable for the magicians and laypeople alike.

Reviewed by Simon Shaw