Champions of Magic are coming to the Harlow Playhouse

Lifestyle / Tue 24th Feb 2015 at 06:06pm

Champions of MagicBy Siobhan Wood

A TEAM of tricksters and cheats are in Harlow for one night only this March 1st as the award-winning illusionists Champions of Magic put on their spectacular show at the Playhouse.

The UK’s largest touring magic show includes five world class performers: grand illusionists Young & Strange, queen of close-up Fay Presto, visual magic expert Edward Hilsum and master mind reader Alex McAleer.

Classic and contemporary magic is showcased with stunning lighting, video and special effects to create a mesmerising experience for all ages.

The cast have made many TV appearances including on ITV’s Penn & Teller: Fool Us, This Morning and BBC’s History Of Magic.

It takes over 70 man hours to build the set and the biggest illusions in the show were made just for Champions of Magic or imported directly from Las Vegas.

Some of the illusions nearly weren’t allowed to go ahead: health and safety officials wanted to stop Young and Strange’s steel fan illusion as they couldn’t understand how it was done.

YH rather nervously caught up with mind reader Alex McAleer who showcased his impressive skills and spoke to us about the show.

Why should people come and see Champions of Magic?

If you’ve never seen magic live you really should. If you’ve just seen it on TV it doesn’t count because anything is possible on TV but live it’s just a different experience. You’ll see everything, you’ll tick every box of magic and it’s a spectacular show with pyros and lights. In the front row you’ll see a granddad, a mum, a dad, a ten year old who’s quite into magic and then an open-mouthed five year old so it’s really nice.

For my element of the show I have two sets, one in each half. The first half is kind of cabaret mind reading so I have a little chimp – The Chimpion of Magic, a name I’m very pleased with – which I throw out over people’s heads so people know it’s random and I’m not doing it with stooges. Then I get a chunk in the second half which I can’t talk too much about but it’s a big stunt that involves everyone in the theatre. It’s the biggest stunt I’ve ever done live.

How did you get into mind reading?

I wanted to learn it because I was into magic, I had a magic kit when I was a teenager. I got into psychology memory techniques where you can use your brain to memorise stuff or do interesting things with your own brain. I saw Derren Brown on TV on a late night repeat of his first show and I saw a man doing some magic with people and psychology and I thought, that’s kind of what I want to do. There’s a branch of magic called mentalism in the same way hypnosis or escapology are branches of magic.

One of the first things I learnt is known as muscle reading which is an old stunt from the 1800s where someone would hide a hatpin somewhere in the parlour and then someone would take their hand and think about where it was, sort of like ‘hot and cold’ but they just do it mentally, and they might even find it. That’s kind of where magic started, as parlour tricks that you would learn, and then it got bigger and bigger and bigger. It doesn’t work with everyone. You have to do tests with people first and you have to be brave to do it; some people would hide their fee for that night’s show and if they couldn’t find it they wouldn’t be paid. I’m not brave enough to do that!

I was at college at one point doing art and design and I left to pursue this and it was definitely worth it. When I started I got a loan from The Princes Trust. Dynamo did as well which is why I thought about doing it. He wasn’t as big as he is now – he got this magicians loan and he bought a camera and then that’s what he made his first TV programme with. I got a very tiny loan and they gave me business advice as well. I bought a website and a suit, the first things you need.

Can anyone become a mind reader?

We all have that experience of gut instinct, intuition really, but it’s not intuition in the sense that it’s all psychic and airy fairy, it’s your subconscious telling you things without you really knowing what it’s telling you. That is part of it but it is a skill and technique I’ve taught myself from books and practices. Technically anyone could but with varying degrees of how well they do it!

Would you ever use your powers for evil? You wouldn’t necessarily be able to tell you were a magician by looking at you.

I get asked that quite a lot! I did when I was first learning, I would freak people out slightly. It’s such a long time since I’ve done that. I’ve gone to the light side. It’s like how a magician could be a conman if they wanted to be as they have the skills where they could just cheat and con people out of money. Or like another way when people use the same techniques as me but claim to be psychic. Same techniques basically.

I always have the moustache and the beard but people think I’m a hipster. That’s always been my skill; a friend of mine would say: “I reckon I could introduce you to any group of people and you’d hang back for about two minutes then everyone would just think you’re their best friend.” That’s good, especially if you’re on stage dragging people out of the audience. But they’ve got to be a little bit afraid of me!

Do you worry about things going wrong in your show?

90% of the time everything works perfectly but sometimes things do go wrong. The trouble is because it’s a magic show the audience assume it’s going to be fine in the end and usually with my stuff it’s not going to be fine – I don’t have a get out of jail free card! There’s normally a way out, you can change what’s going to happen but you should never notice if I’ve done something wrong. I used to get stage fright but not now as I’m really comfortable with the material and a bit more relaxed. You still get butterflies.

Are people more sceptical these days?

People probably are more sceptical. They expect more from it. Especially Derren, he’s raised the bar mindreading so it’s like: “I knew you would say that, it’s in my pocket and tattooed on my arm and written on the sky.” It’s bigger and bigger so we try to live up to that and that’s what my second stunt in the show is all about.

Tickets to see Champions of Magic at Harlow Playhouse on Sunday March 1st are available at www.playhouseharlow.com or by calling the Box Office: 01279 431 945.

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