Ahead of The Illusionists’ return to Dubai, we meet the city’s own magicians.
From Harry Houdini’s death-defying stunts to Derren Brown’s mind baffling tricks, magic has always enthralled and entertained, and as The Illusionists return to perform at the Dubai World Trade Centre from Tuesday September 30, we meet some of Dubai’s magicians and find out how our own community of tricksters keep audiences surprised.
Specialist in children’s magic
‘What I love about performing is the reaction from my audience. When I’m performing to a full crowd of children and I see the look of amazement and excitement on their faces, it just makes my job worthwhile. Some adults like the challenge of trying to work out how you’ve done the trick, but some people just accept the trick is a clever illusion and enjoy the fun.
I love performing children’s magic most because to them it’s just magic, and to see the wonder and amazement on their faces and make them smile and laugh, that really is magical. You need to be confident and be able to keep your audience focused on you throughout the performance. You need to have a good sense of timing and be able to react to change, as things are going on all through your routine that could throw you. I once had a nosebleed on stage in the middle of an illusion. I placed my head into a head twister box and my assistant started twisting and my big nose got stuck in the box door – but the show must go on, as they say.’
From Dhs1,200 for a 30-minute interactive magic show. www.hatsmagic.co.uk
Specialist in close-up magic
‘Magic is something that’s just in me – I don’t really understand how everyone isn’t a magician. The thrill of being able to give someone that surprise – you know the feeling you get when you see a trick. When I had that, when I was really young, all I wanted to do was be able to do it properly. I started doing tricks when I was six years old, I wanted to perform at my own birthday party. So my parents bought me a magic set, and I laid out the table with a black cloth, and I had a cape around my neck. No-one watched the show, and I cried for hours – but you have to start somewhere, right?
I’ve performed in different countries and different cultures respond very differently to different types of effects. I basically try to be flexible based on the mentality of the people that I’m performing for. There aren’t many of us doing professional magic here but we are a small band, and we all ask each other for anything we can’t do ourselves. They’re all extremely talented, we vouch for each other’s skills. It’s good to have a community of magicians for a bit of solidarity. Also, it’s nice to be able to work some ideas we’re working on with other people.
Prices on request. www.james-harrington.com.
Specialist in close-up magic
‘I got into magic through watching Paul Daniels on television in the UK. I just wanted to know how it worked. I’ve been doing it for 16 years now and I spend about six months of the year in Dubai and six months in the UK. Magic works pretty much in the same way, but some reactions are different. I think English audiences are a little bit spoilt for choice with regards to entertainment, whereas here in Dubai it’s not so common.
With close-up magic, I don’t need a stage, lighting or assistance, I can just get started. To be a good magician you need to be approachable, friendly and impressionable, so you can perform magic in an entertaining way. It really is a profession and it’s all I do for income. Tricks don’t always go to plan and you do get some weird reactions to some. I once did a trick where there was a table of Nigerian Diplomats nearby, and one of the guys came over to me and he genuinely believed his ex-wife had put a curse on him that prevented him from finding love again. He thought I could do something about it. I told him if he believed the curse was gone, it would be gone. I didn’t know what else to say to him really.’
From Dhs2,500 for two hours. www.keisner.com.
Razzle dazzle ’em
Where to buy magic kits
Check out this web store for starter kits and playing cards.
From Dhs75, www.souq.com
Mainly for children, but you can magic trick packs and cards here.
From Dhs 75. Various locations including Wafi City, www.wizz.ae (04 338 4646).
The party section of this arts and crafts store has a selection of magic kits and costumes.
From Dhs125, Umm Suqeim Road, Al Barsha 2, www.creativemindsdubai.com (04 399 4277).
The Illusionists 2.0
Watch incredible stunts, optical and mental illusions from the seven-strong line-up.
From Dhs199. Sep 30-Oct 7. Dubai World Trade Centre, Sheikh Zayed Road (056 675 6834).