The honest truth about dishonest practices | Colin Cloud gives the lowdown on fellow magicians

The honest truth about dishonest practices

Colin Cloud gives the lowdown on fellow magicians

Ladies and gentlemen, roll up, see animals vanish before your very eyes, signed cards being found in impossible locations and secret thoughts being plucked from the deepest recesses of your mind… It must be Edinburgh Festival Fringe time.

As with any good trick, there is a lot more going on than meets the eye. Magic, like any art form, is rooted in its history. But performers at the Fringe charged with deceiving your eyes and mind, face greater challenges. They have to conjure with sticky subjects like originality, compelling performances and all whilst engaging you in the resulting experience. 

I want to share with you ‘real people’ (as we like to call you) the challenges us ‘mystery performers’ have to overcome in order to share our personal, artistic and magical vision with you. I hope that by so doing, you’ll have a greater appreciation of the magic shows you’ll encounter this August. 

Allow me to take a moment to introduce myself. I’m Colin Cloud - the forensic mind reader. Living just a few miles away from the Fringe, in West Lothian, I used to come to Edinburgh every August looking for my mind to be blown. As a quiet and reserved teenager, wandering around, soaking up the atmosphere, I never imagined for a second I would one day be appearing as a performer. For me it’s both a thrill and something of a dream come true. 

My personal thrill is derived from creating, writing and executing my own concepts and demonstrations, honed over months, sometimes years and of course the gasps of astonishment from audiences across the world as I challenge the way we all think about the universe.

Most people will see a magical performance live only once or twice in their lifetime. Perhaps that’s the very reason our art form is often criticised for having too many similar illusionists playing the same old tricks in the same old way, rarely of their own creation. 'From magic shop to the stage' they say and without taking a moment to put an ounce of themselves into the material they present. 

Paradoxically, the magicians with whom we are all familiar, watched live or on TV, also share a common truth. With only so many plots in magic and mentalism, understandably some routines will of course have a similar feel. What sets the master apart is that they’ve taken the time to define who they are and what they do. They’ve developed their character. They’ve perfected their methods. They’ve mastered their routine. And, most importantly, they know how to engage an entire audience with their miraculous performance.

Experience tells me, get all of this just right and for some it can be positively life-changing.

The reality is, it’s tough to engage people with something that is inherently a lie - a falsehood, a non-truth, a deception, an illusion, a trick. The best magicians are able to hide that lie so well, so convincingly that they capture our imagination and for that moment, they cause us to believe in real magic. You no longer care if you’re being lied to or not, the performer has managed to shut down that analytical part of your brain and allowed the creative and fun side to run amok. 

For any budding magicians out there, here’s the real secret if you want to grow quickly in the business. It's the advice that I wish I had been given and I had understood when I was first starting out. We should be influenced by the approach, dedication and process of the performers we admire. Not their creative solutions.

Copying it is not a quick fix, in fact you’re making it more difficult for yourself.  Stick with your own personality, look and delivery style. Take risks and trust in your own abilities, rely on them, nurture and perfect them. Push your art forward in new and exciting directions and start connecting with your audiences in personal and more gratifying ways. 

So ummmm, where were we?!… 

Think back to a time you’ve been to see a comedian, the thing you’re talking about the next day is the joke that you remember. The joke you remember is the one that had a new prospective on something you could relate to. The best magicians are the ones who are doing this too. 

Every year I strive to push myself and I listen to my audience to what they’d love to see. I find interesting demonstrations and ways of connecting the dots so that my audiences appreciate what I’m sharing with them but I’m also artistically proud of what I’ve created. I’m still very much a work in progress (referring largely to my hair style), my foundations are in the concepts of others, but I’ve taken great pride in building on and developing those core ideas.

For example, in my new show Kills, I’ve moved away from the thing I’m perhaps best known for. I mean I still read minds and predict people’s behaviour; But there's no secret, I’ve have found a way to literally get away with murder. That shouldn't put you off coming though. If anything, I hope it makes you want to come and witness the event even more. 

In closing, I propose to go see as many magic acts as possible!  You’ll have greater chance of experiencing something truly wonderful. Ultimately you can decide whether you’re applauding a true Rembrandt or just a pound store print out. If in the process you're party to something that causes you to question your particular reality, chances are you’ve been in the presence of a master. 

Have a wonderful (and magical) Fringe. 

Colin Cloud Kills is on at the Pleasance Courtyard at 18:20. He tweets at @Colin_Cloud

Published: 16 Aug 2015

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