Close up magic (or table magic) has really taken off in the last 15 years. Before that most people associated magic with Paul Daniels (especially in the UK) and before that David Nixon. Magic was also thought of as a children’s entertainment – the magician would come along and perform a few funny tricks for the little uns at birthday parties and often make balloon animals.
Nowadays, most magicians perform at weddings, private parties and corporate events with close up magic – that is magic performed to small groups at a time. No stage, no special lights, no mic. And it’s great. It can really help break the ice for guests that don’t know each other and create a genuine buzz before the alcohol has kicked in.
The downside is, since hiring magicians becomes more popular then more ‘magicians’ jump on the bandwagon. All you need are a couple of tricks, a website knocked up by a web-savvy friend and an ad on Google Adwords or bit of simple SEO and you’re away. Any chancer can get at least a few bookings.
So how can you separate the wheat from the chaff? Here are a few things to look out for –
1) Price. If the magician is charging a very low fee then chances are he is fairly new or a ‘weekend warrior’. Ignore the fact that he claims to have lots of corporate clients. If he is charging a good professional fee then chances are that he has self worth and belief in what he is doing. I have a lot of calls saying they have been let down – often the fee quoted was very low. Go figure!
2) Video. Make sure you can see a video of what the magician is like. This is vital. Lots of magicians put together videos that are heavily edited so you can just see a few card moves – this is because unfortunately, many magicians are socially inept and are bad at actually engaging and entertaining. Sure, their tricks might be fine, but trust me the saying “it’s not what you do, but how you do it” is never more true.
3) Recommendations. Have a look for some recommendations or Google the persons name. If a magician has been performing for a while then inevitable his/her name should be all over the place. I would be very wary of any magician who’s name only comes up for his website.
4)Pictures. Have a look to see if the magician has a few picture of him performing. It’s all very well to say they can entertain – a picture is worth a thousand words. Also, make sure the magician is actually in some of the photos – some unscrupulous magicians just pinch photos off other sites.
5) Response. Look at the professionalism and speed of the response. If a magician isn’t used to getting lots of enquires about his/her services then they are usually slow and bad about sending out a detailed and professional response.
Even the above can not guarantee you will choose the right person. Out of them all I would say the video is the most important. If you can get an idea of the performers personality (and tricks) then this is your best bet.
Usually a magician is seen mixing and mingling amongst groups. However, an excellent way to use your magician to the best advantage for everyone is setting up a separate room and inviting small groups in at a time. This way everyone gets to see the show in it’s best possible form – no interruptions at the wrong time (ie a waiter coming over at the vital moment), full focus and it just feels a bit more special to go and see a show rather than a show coming to you.
Alan Hudson – Professional Close Up Magician in London