IRISH RING’S MAGIC UNITES THE GENERATIONS
Here’s a snapshot to hold in your imagination, to warm your heart
in the cold inhospitable days of winter. It’s late at night and a packed roomful of otherwise adults, some standing
on chairs all making intricate origami folds in bills of assorted denominations. The concentration on the work in hand is
palpable and the focus is on a personable young man from Carolina, laid back, ferociously talented, ferociously young as he
work-shopped an entire audience through the intricacies of a double bill penetration. To get a few enthusiasts to follow you
move by move is an achievement , but to get an entire audience whose ages ranged from fifteen year old to eighty plus requires
some very special talent. And Joshua Jay was that special talent. He was the undoubted star of that weekend which was the
58th convention of Ring 85, the Irish Ring, hosted by the Society
of Irish Magicians and as befits a true magician he seemed to be everywhere.
His late night lecture on Friday pulled a full house when such events normally
attract only the hardened veterans. He barnstormed his way through a ninety minute lecture on Saturday morning, after seeing
the sun rise at 6.30 having been introduced to Dublin’s club scene by a select posse of the Society’s youngest
and brightest. Then a few hours later he topped the bill in the International close-up show. In between and throughout Sunday
he was in the bar, the restaurant and in every nook and cranny of the Plaza Hotel as he swapped moves and ‘workers’,
generously giving of his time and expertise to neophyte and old hand alike.
But Joshua Jay was but one name among a host of star turns lined up by
the Society of Irish Magicians for the convention bill of fare. It is impossible to list all who performed and what was performed.
All that remains after a truly hectic weekend was that lingering sense of enjoyment as after a satisfying meal, plus a handful
of snapshots fitfully recalled from a full bill.
Here are some such snapshots remembered at random.
In the hotel registration queue, a harassed looking punter, pull-on
suitcase in one hand, the other obsessively finger-rolling a coin. Magician’s worry beads?Trevor Lewis doing a great
Miser’s Dream in an homage to Irish legend Albert Le Bas.
Alan Shaxon looking as though he’d stepped from another century,
knocking the younger magicians stone dead with his Human Gasometer; that awed silence that accompanies the unspoken question:
can we really be seeing this?
An entire audience doing an impression of an L & L audience for Joshua
The enormous TV Screen constantly updated with edited highlights
of the convention, sometimes uploaded so fast that the quickness of the editing hand really deceived the mind.Keith Barrett’s
spirit rapping box, primarily for the atrocious pun which capped the routine.
The Presidents’ Table at the Banquet, five Presidents aglitter
and a jangle with chains of office.Quentin Reynolds and his five minutes with a pocket mouse
And with regard to the latter: Quentin’s routine, is now so loved
and so familiar that gags and tag lines are practically sung along with, in much the same way as fans sing along with a pop
star’s hit songs. This signature piece of classical anytime-anywhere magic is now the de rigueur performance
anthem of Irish Conventions. Quentin’s late night show, THE PSYCHIC GAME SHOW, was a well-judged digestif after
the official banquet, and evoked laughter and gasps of astonishment in equal measure. Quentin’s contribution to the
weekend won him the Murray Trophy for Showmanship.
The lectures gave full measure, pressed down and overflowing with practical
ideas and insights honed from years of real life experience. Joshua Jay, as we’ve noted, was like an electric current
throughout the three days, sparking talk and emulation. Keith Barrett’s coin work got a boost from the close-up camerawork
of Ciaran McCormack. FISM winner Trevor Lewis had enough ideas to satisfy both children’s entertainers and card workers
alike. His lecture, and his close-up and stage shows were an object lesson in audience management and how to get the maximum
from every effect.
There were two lectures which were certainly outside of the box, if not
completely off the wall. Veteran illusionist and now a busy psycho-therapist, Tony Sadar’s Saturday morning lecture
was intriguingly billed as HOW TO GET TALKED ABOUT. But nothing could have prepared the early morning audience for the whirlwind
journey which was an eclectic mix of memoir, manipulating the media, motivational talk, and such feats as electric bulb chewing,
shoving six inch nails up one’s nose, and dancing on broken glass; yet all were relevantly blended into a coherent whole.
Then on Sunday afternoon we had a workshop from Max Marshall entitled SILENT
PATTER. This too involved the audience in interactive exercises in energy raising, meditation and non-verbal communication.
Not perhaps the usual fare of magical conventions, but certainly a piquant addition to any performer’s arsenal.
But these were only a few of the surprises that the convention turned up.
Young Dara McGrath from Cashel swept all before him, winning award after award for close up and presentation. His ebullient
personality marks him as somebody to watch. Remember that name. Another name that seems to be destined for stardom is that
of Jack Wise, a polished stand up who did a blistering set, setting the bar for the International close-up show which also
included five star performances from Joshua Jay, Trevor Lewis, Alan Shaxon, Keith Bennett, and the irrepressible Peter McLanachan.
The Gala show spanned the generations. Alan Shaxon, with incredible aplomb and impeccable address took us through the Human
Gasometer, Magical Fishing, his Thumb Tie Routine and his hydrostatic glass. Magic which spanned hundreds of years in his
hands seemed fresh and newly minted. Pat Fallon, Ireland’s hardest working illusionist book-ended the show with his
high energy magic, doves, silks, and rabbits opening the Gala Show, and his illusion act which included an amazing dissection
and a sword cabinet done almost in close up.
Among the younger performers were Caolin McBride and Nicola who presented
an original fantasy involving the Head Twister, a suspension and a diminishing doll illusion. Trevor Lewis’ Card Sword
with a seven year old volunteer was a delight and Max Marshall in his alter ego of Congo filled two spots with high energy
interactive clowning. The entire show was neatly tied together by the many talents of emcee Aonghus McAnally. The stage management
of Brendan Byrne, Ciaran MacCormack and Steve Thomson seamlessly set and struck tables, props and many heavy illusions on
what was essentially a tiny stage.
The numbers of young and very young magicians who attended and participated
was commented on by SIM President, John Bowden, in his closing address. It showed, he said, how healthy our art is currently,
and was a straw in the wind on the way magic is growing and burgeoning in the green and mystic land of Ireland.