For a lot of people the last time they wanted a magician at their party was when they were 8 years old but magicians don’t just work for children. Adults have always been a great audience for magic because they have defined critical thinking. They “know” it isn’t “real magic” but if the performer does his job right he can bring about the childlike state of wonder in an adult. A good magician can bring you right back to experience the fuzzy feeling you had as a kid when your grandfather pulled a coin out of your ear.
There are 3 styles of magic that are most often hired for events where adults are in the majority.
Close-up magic (the most popular choice for people hiring magicians)
Drawing room shows
Close-up magic is often seen at cocktail parties where the magician mingles amongst the guests performing miracles with borrowed objects and simple objects he has on him. He works without a table and uses people hands when he needs to. This is an excellent choice if all the guests will be standing with drinks and eating finger food.
Another type of close-up magic that is closely related to strolling magic is table magic. Table magic is performed between the courses at dinners, wedding breakfasts, balls and banquets. You are more likely to see a short (between 3 – 8 minutes) mini cabaret act that has a structured feel to it. The magician may use the table but it will be as unobtrusive as possible because at banquets there is a premium on table real estate.
Close-up magicians are being hired more and more for Trade Shows to draw people to the stand with customised magic presentations. Presentations are designed to showcase the features and benefits of the stand they are representing but with amazing magic and not just dry sales pitches.
Cabaret Shows are a great way for a lot of people to see some great magic in a relatively short space of time. Often a close-up magician who has performed strolling/table magic before hand will also do a 20 minute cabaret act after dinner.
There are many different styles of cabaret magician – comedy, traditional manipulation act to music, mind reading etc. The type of event you are organizing will dictate the type of cabaret magician you will require. If you would like lots of audience participation and laughter go for a comedy magician, if there will be lots of non-English speakers present then go for a visual act like the manipulator and if it is a very business orientated environed maybe a mind reader would be more suited.
You also see cabaret magicians at comedy clubs, cruise ships and also occasionally at motivational events where the magic is combined with a motivational speech.
Drawing room shows were almost a dead art for nearly a 100 years. They were immensely popular with the Victorians where the gentry would all gather to watch a conjurer perform magic. In recent years it is coming back into fashion at private parties where a magician may perform after dinner for 30 minutes or so. This is a taste of days gone by and is close enough for apparently no shenanigans to be going on yet far enough away to use larger effects for everyone to see. This kind of show is most related to a cabaret show but the effects are smaller and it is more interactive as the audience in only a few feet away.
When choosing a professional magician it is important to choose wisely as in any industry there are “cowboys”.
Questions you may like to ask any prospective performer you are engaging are…
How long have you been a professional?
Some magicians may seem great on paper but as all know paper doesn’t refuse ink. Experience is the key in this industry so make sure they have cut their teeth.
Can I see you perform?
The answer depends on the type of performer you are considering engaging. If it’s a cabaret magician he may well work at comedy clubs where you can go and see him perform and close-up magicians often work at hotels, restaurants and bars as the resident entertainer several times a week. If it’s open to the public then go and see them work. However if the performer works mainly at corporate events, weddings and/or trade shows you may find it impossible to see him work live as these are closed events.
Have you got a brochure/video I can see?
Most professional performers will have promotional kits including photographs, video and brochure. A good promo kit doesn’t mean they are a good magician, it may just mean they know somebody who works at a printing press. A cheap and tatty looking promo kit doesn’t definitely mean the performer is bad, but it does show a lack of professionalism and that is a warning sign. In this day and age some performers have no hard copy for promotional use as it dates so quickly so there website acts as the brochure. If the website looks like it was made from cut outs of magazines then they are not interested in making a good first impression. Would you trust somebody who didn’t make a good first impression at your event?
Does the price include VAT and any other charges?
When in negotiations don’t forget to clarify if there as any other expense other than fee quoted.
What magic tricks do you do?
You should be able to gain a good idea of the style of the magician from any online or hardcopy brochure but if you want to know what kind of effects he/she performs – go ahead and ask!
Are you a member of any magic societies or performer bodies?
Many magicians will be members of different magic clubs around the world. In the UK the most prestigious is the The Magic Circle where there are only 1500 hundred members world wide and you have to perform in front of experienced peers to gain membership. Again in the UK you will find many magicians are members of Equity the performs union which is another sign of their professionalism.
Have you got any referees I could phone?
This may seem like a reasonable question but a lot of magician’s work mainly in the corporate area and are not permitted to pass out the contact details of their bookers. You should be able to see testimonials and letters from clients on the websites/brochures. Of course the best way is personal recommendation; ask friends if they have ever hired a magician.
Have you got public liability insurance?
This is crucial. The magician will be in close contact to your guests and maybe borrowing objects from them for effects. You don’t want to end up with a magician who isn’t covered!
I hope this all helps to give you a better idea of the different types of magic that are available for you to hire for your next event and what to look out for when hiring.