On a summer's day in 1905, twenty three amateur and professional magicians gathered together at London's Pinoli's Restaurant with the intention of forming a magic club. The result was the founding of The Magic Circle.
Nearly 114 years later a group of City Livery Club members, Marketors and our guests congregated at their permanent venue tucked behind Euston Square for an evening of magical entertainment and illusion.
Upon arrival through the rather non-descript doors of The Magic Circle you are instantly entranced by the “floating” spiral staircase, decorated with historical scenes of illusion and magic, with the astrological badge of the Magic Circle featured. This is visible around the intimate venue made up of a number of rooms over three floors. Each room has a distinct character, themed and decorated with magical exhibits which we explored and played with, certainly bringing our inner child back out with glee. Member of the Circle also hosted us and explained the Circle’s history and looked at the incredible names listed as their past presidents, from the mentalist David Berglas, to Ali Bongo.
Magic is never more entertaining than when it is three feet (or less) away from you and delivered in such an entertaining way. We were treated to a series of talented acts in ‘Parlour’ close magic form, which included ample audience participation. I really do not know how one of these wonderful magicians knew I was thinking of a glass, as revealed by the word glass written on a card in his wallet. And as for how he could tell what playing card I was thinking of simply by asking me to count to ten, I would love to know….this would certainly have magical applications for marketing and communications!
During the mid-session break we visited the Magic Circle museum in their basement. This is a compact, but fascinating collection of memorabilia and artefacts, along with the stories bringing them to life. However, when you have a concierge with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the history of magic, you get to hear the real details, told in an entertaining way. This included tales about Houdini and the bullet lodged in his hand, along with the fact he had his own x-ray machine to check himself after the many accidents he had practicing dangerous illusions; the faux Chinaman Chung Ling Soo (who hearing about a job in China changed from an Englishman to a Chinaman on the boat) who made it to the top of international magic literally through disguise and misdirection and died like many trailblazers, pushing the limits of illusion (trying to catch a bullet); but one of the highlights was undoubtedly the story of Sooty M.M.C. (an official member of the Magic Circle), so named as he was originally all yellow, but during his first TV show recording they discovered he had no contrast on the black and white screens and therefore used soot to shade his ears and nose.
The final part of the evening was a truly incredible show in the spectacular Magic Circle Theatre. There was initial audience participation where we were all persuaded that one of our arms did not work properly….a very persuasive message.
I was then invited to the stage with another guest to ‘assist’ the talented magical storyteller in the presentation of his illusions. This involved collaboration and imagination, to ensure that what the audience saw was totally convincing…but behind the invisible scenes we found ourselves working together on the delivery. It was a pleasure to be part of this planned yet incredibly creative process.
In the words of David Devant, the first President of The Magic Circle and often acknowledged as one of the greatest British magicians of all time "all done by kindness".