The 55th Annual Magic Convention of IBM Ring No 85 was hosted
by the Society of Irish Magicians in the Plaza Hotel in Dublin from 29th to the 1st May 2005.
A brand new venue, new convention organisers, and a relatively small amount
of pre-registrations: this could easily have been a recipe for disaster. It is a tribute to all concerned that it was not
only a success, but a resounding success, being voted by many as one of the best Ring conventions ever. So what was the secret
of its success? Like many successes, its secret was the iceberg secret – the ten per cent you see belies the ninety
percent of hidden effort.
The Plaza surprised everybody: a convention location, which seemed to contain
everybody without crowding. At any hour of the day or night (or early morning!) you could always find groups of like-minded
souls. The hotel lent itself to an intimacy of fun, informal magic and late night poker sessions.
Friday night kicked off with the dealers attracting early arrivals to their
stalls. DAVID GINN from Atlanta always seemed to have a good-humoured crowd around him. The first official lecture brought
ANDREW NORMENSELL’S laid back lecture: it was difficult not to warm to Andy’s northern humour, and his notes and
effects had many takers.
The Late Night Show got off to a cracking start with GEORGE BLEEKS, with
his down-beat and lugubrious award winning act. It was a truly a gem, and one that was lovingly recounted to late comers throughout
the weekend. GAY LJUNBERG from Sweden did a rope routine then destroyed a borrowed banknote in a paper shredder. This note
surfaced in a piece of rope from the earlier routine safely held in somebody’s pocket. Closing the show with a barnstorming
performance were PAT AND TANYA FALLON with a whirlwind of silks, doves, rabbits, and their own version of the Zig Zag which
in this intimate setting could have qualified as close up and was a complete fooler. The act is a delight to watch; one of
those acts where you relax knowing you are in the hands of a couple who will deliver the goods with style and aplomb.
The registration desk was hopping from early on Saturday morning. Sean
Brannigan, President Ring 85 of the IBM, resplendent in the Ring’s chain of office performed the official opening ceremony
welcoming the truly international range of visitors to this the 55th annual convention.
It was still early in the morning, and yet a coterie of hung-over, sleep
deprived participants gathered to watch The Dealers’ Demonstration which was mercifully short and sweet being as it
should merely a taster of the goodies that awaited the affluent curious in the Dealers’ Hall. A quick break for some
restorative beverages (this reporter settled for a pint of fizzy mineral water and a thin slice off the breast of an Alka-Seltzer!).
Then back again to hear GAY LJUNBERG lecture and demonstrate on basically what he had performed the night before. Some good
insights and audience handling tips here. To lighten his load homewards, Gay auctioned off his mobile paper shredder, and
a certain SIM member walked off with a ten Euro bargain.
Joe O’Donnell introduced the International close up show. His introduction
involved the use of a lighted candle and a story, dodgy but topical, about the recent Papal election. First up was Hungarian
magician GABOR SZABOGG. Now here was one serious cardician: clever, precise and a delight to watch. ANDY NORMENSELL was the
next to put himself under the scrutiny of an attentive audience, and a close-up camera which put his act writ large on the
big screen. Andy’s magic was as usual simple, direct and elegantly effective. PAUL NARDINI, as funny and laid back as
you would expect from the distaff member of THE NARDINIS had a brace of stunning mentally oriented card effects, which proved
an apt introduction to MARC PAUL. Magicians familiar with Marc’s work from his DVD and TV appearances were expecting
much and they were not disappointed. Marc is one of those who have set the benchmark for a type of mentalism, which requires
that the performer walk a tightrope between possibilities with the outcome frequently depending on linguistic deception. It
is on-the-edge mentalism requiring nerves of steel, what Bob Cassidy calls ‘jazz mentalism’ and definitely not
for the faint hearted. Marc brought the audience to its feet.
And as if that were not enough, the indefatigable MARC PAUL followed after
a short break with a lecture, which many recalled as the highlight of the convention. His ANYTIME, ANYPLACE, ANY BOOK book
test is so sweet – direct, and knockout stuff. This led into his AAA approach to mentalism. Defined as Anytime, Anyplace,
Anywhere approach it is posited on the theory that as a mind reader you should be able to demonstrate you abilities at the
drop of a hat. A clutch of effects was demonstrated that fulfilled all these criteria. There was more, much more including
a macro effect called the Human Pack of Cards using the entire audience, and a Giant Card Mindreading. The long queue to buy
the lecture notes and DVD was a tribute to a truly awesome lecturer.
When the banquet was originally booked the figure was eighty diners based
on the estimated attendance. By five o’clock Saturday the number had risen to one hundred and twenty. The hotel manager
didn’t bat an eyelid: true to the spirit of the weekend, he waved a wand over the kitchens and multiplied the original
eighty meals to one hundred and twenty. A sort of ‘loaves and fishes’ effect with a full house of satisfied punters
ready to watch the four contestants in the Stage competition.
Did I just imagine it, or was the standard this year higher than previous?
There were four competitors, and the audience was treated to four polished performances, all very different. First to open
was RACHEL ANDREWS from Limerick with a graceful act of doves, flowers and colourful magic. It was a totally enchanting performance
made all the more so by the fact that Rachel, representing the Munster Society of Magicians is a mere fourteen years old.
As the saying goes, it wasn’t off a bush she got it: she is one of magician Terry Andrews’ gifted daughters. I
say one, because Rachel’s younger sister acted as her assistant, and her stage presence and aplomb were a delight to
Rachel was followed by the laconic comedy of COLIN IRVINE from the Ulster
Society of Magicians. There is a form of humour, which is recognisably Northern – laconic, downbeat, and full of surprises.
Roping in an assistant from the audience, Colin treated us to a variety of effects, as his ad hoc assistant desperately struggled
to keep up with the demands of this hilarious act.
Comedy seemed to be the keynote of the competition: JOE FORTUNE representing
the Society of Irish Magicians conjured up some good magic to an elegant music track. It is probably more difficult to carry
comedy silently, without the benefit of patter, but Joe pulled it off, and his many visual gags harvested the laughter. Joe
included an impressive table levitation, which was a real fooler.
Hot on his heels, came another SIM member, NEVIN CODY, in a James Bond
send-up – Oh Oh Nevin! – complete with impeccable tuxedo, much posing and some great in-your-face magic,
shaken but not stirred. His opening sequence, wielding a guitar to the familiar Bond theme music was a cracker, particularly
when the guitar changed to a machine gun which an irritated Bond turned on the audience. Nevin finished a great set with a
hilarious skiing sequence in a self-created snowstorm. This was a brilliant and innovative use of a familiar effect and provided
a stunning ending.
The four performers presented the judges with a difficult task, but Rachel
Andrews managed a double, winning the Murray Trophy for showmanship, and the IBM Shield for best overall winner. The comedy
award went to Colin Irvine.
The second night went into the morning with a continuation of the Poker
School monitored by veteran John Bowden. When did people sleep, I asked myself, as bright-eyed and bushy tailed, the members
of Ring 85 congregated for the Annual General Meeting on Sunday morning. A thoughtful council had provided trays of water,
and the speed with which these vanished was an eloquent tribute to the ravages of the night before, and the astounding resilience
of Irish magicians.
Among the survivors was American magician and children’s entertainer
DAVID GINN who bounded onstage for his lecture which was a crash course on how to do magic for children. Quickly and with
many examples from his own act, David laid out a set of precepts for the successful kiddies performer.
Many new faces entered the fray in the Close Up competitions. Included
were members of all the major Irish Societies, as well as many independents from as far afield as New Mexico, Florida and
Scotland. There was much good magic on offer: a stunning set from thirteen year old DARRAGH POWER impressed the judges so
much that he took the main prize as well as Most Promising New Comer.
A packed house eagerly awaited the Gala Show. Nor were they disappointed.
Compered by the ebullient AENGHUS MCANALLY, the show opened with TONY THURSBY’S elegant magic: classical, colourful
and a delight to watch. Here was skill coupled with showmanship, classical magic honed to that perfection that only comes
with insight and experience. To the younger members it was an object lesson in presentation, and a role model to be emulated.
Then came ANDREW NORMENSELL whose audience handling skills were put to the test when a very inebriated gentleman wandered
in and tried to engage Andy in banter. He was quickly given his come-uppance and a burly trio of SIM members escorted him
off the premises. Andy barely turned a hair, and continued with a very funny act, spiked with gags, and leaning heavily on
a mental approach.
REUBEN, a Dublin mime who rocked the house with two sets was one of the
funniest acts of the night. Rueben who started his career as a children’s entertainer is now a much sought after stand
up artiste with an international reputation. His second spot – a children’s entertainer confronted with the birthday
party from hell – certainly drew from his own experience and must surely have struck a note of wry recognition with
most of us. When you consider that here was a young man, simply dressed who peopled the stage with unruly children, harassed
mums, psychotic car drivers and effects which refused to behave, and all without a single prop or setting. Now that was truly
DAVID GINN, who earlier delivered a barnstorming lecture on entertaining
kids again beguiled his now adult audience proving that he has as good a handle on fooling adults as he has on entertaining
children. His handling of the linking coat hangers brought spontaneous applause.
MARC PAUL, already a convention hit with magicians now slayed a largely
lay audience with some truly astounding mental feats, including a number prediction which took this reviewer by complete surprise
and left him gob-smacked. Marc is one of the new breed of mentalists, using linguistic and psychological deception as much
as conventional magical methods coupled with nerves of steel to deliver high-octane mind reading.
To close the show, THE GREAT NARDINIS bungled and blundered their way through
twenty minutes of hysterical mayhem, havoc and destruction. Their signature effect, the Sub Trunk, had a few unscripted additions,
which had the audience weak with laughter. Indeed many of the audience were already on stage. Impossible to describe, you’ll
have to ask somebody who was there. An amazing and chaotic finale to a great show and a memorable weekend.
And amazingly, a first in my experience, thanks to the efficient stage
management of Brendan Byrne, Steven Thomson, and Ciaran McCormack the show came down on time, allowing plenty of opportunity
for magical camaraderie, goodbyes and even the continuation of a certain notorious poker school