Last October I attended the Shanghai International Magic Convention. There were so many great acts. I saw the famous mentalist Banachek, author of numerous books about the subject. He had his head wrapped in duct tape and then was able to correctly guess three random objects brought out from the audience. The Mentalist a russian roulette prediction routine that was terrifying but amazing. An incredible performer from the Netherlands, Niek Takens won the stage gala competition for his incredibly clean card productions and vanishes. Basically his sleeves were pulled up and his fingers wide open and still he produced cards, I actually don't understand how. There was a great act from the Italy that was sort of Egyptian themed, he made all these lamps appear and balanced a scimitar with a spinning top on it's tip on his nose. A piano floated all over the stage. There was so much creativity, I saw performers doing magic with leaves, flowers and paper planes. One of the more spectacular performances was this dove production act perfomed behind a transparent screen, computer generated images were projected onto it to augment the sleight of hand tricks, I'm not sure if it was meant to be magical or just visually impressive.
I'm not one to judge, I was a pretty feral child myself, but in the last few weeks I've met some very interesting children. Last Sunday, when I was doing a trick with some salt a 5 year old girl in the audience just stood up out of the blue, walked over, kicked me in the shin, walked back to her original seat, then sat down again, all without saying a word. Last Tuesday, I was doing a trick where I made some coins vanish. A little boy, possibly 7 years old wandered over, I lent forward to ask him his name. Before I could speak, he grabbed the collar of my shirt with one hand and with the other, shook his fist at me. He ordered me to give him the money and I did. The Friday before this, I met a girl who struggled to grasp the concept of sharing. I do a trick where an empty packet of chocolate biscuits magically fills up. I usually hand out the packet and have the kids take one and pass it along. However, this time, a young lady grabbed the full packet and ran off somewhere. She wasn't even that fat somehow. Later, she came back, her cheeks, chin and nose covered in chocolate and demanded more biscuits.
Recently I've been working on some new material.
Last weekend I tested out a trick where an empty cookie packet fills up with cookies. It created a bit of a frenzy with children scrambling to get biscuits. This progresses into a routine where cookies appear in kids ears. The toughest parts were finding a biscuit with enough structural integrity to do sleight of hand (without crumbling) and resisting the urge to eat them. I will also need to sort out the logistics of buying a new box of cookies for each show, perhaps get them in bulk.
I've also been trying out some things with milk. I've long done a trick with a spong
I've been an entertainer for kids for about 10 years and I would like to share some of what I consider to be the elements of a strong magic show for children.
Obviously, a magician must adapt their performance to different age groups. A younger audience of less than 8 years old will not appreciate a magic show for how deceptive it is anywhere near as much as children older than this. Younger kids prefer silly or gross stuff, for example I do a trick where an empty box of crackers fills up and then a bunch of these biscuits start appearing and I try to eat them but can't keep up with how many there are. Crumbs fall all over the ground, and I when I try to talk chunks of cracker shoot out. I also do a trick where I drink a jug of milk and then pat my forehead with a sponge then apparently squeeze out the milk I have just sweated.
Children above 8 years old need a little bit more intellectual stimulation, they appreciate card tricks and mentalism (mind reading) more than very young children. Although, at this age, now that they have a greater awareness and understanding of the physical laws of nature, they become more cynical and skeptical and will try harder to explain what they have seen, perhaps even settling on incorrect explanations. The show becomes more of challenge or a contest, I need to include more red herrings to throw them off the scent, obviously without belittling people's intelligence. An example of this is the silk to egg trick where the magician might push a silk handkerchief into has fist, apparently changing it into an egg but with a poorly concealed hole it's back into which he apparently pushed the silk. The magician seems to ignore the kids shouting that they can see the hole and then he grabs a glass and cracks the egg and yoke into it, with the seemingly hollow egg transforming into a real one.
Kids like to see magic with objects they are familiar with or frequently use themselves, clearly it is more impressive if I can borrow these things and do magic with them. This is why I try to use common everyday household objects or things you could find at a school, like food, pencils, paper, spoons, balloons or cups. In particular, kids love balloons, Although, I can only speculate about why. If I just get out a bag of modelling balloons and start inflating and twisting them into animals and for some reason, children will queue up and wait 15 minutes to get one.
Children need to be involved in the show as much as possible. We are all egotistical when we are very young, (and some, like me, never stop) kids need to feel like they are the star of the show, so I try my best to do this for them. I have people do the tricks themselves as often as possible. For example, I put two pieces of rope in a child's hand where they heal back together. I grab coins and cards from inside people's ears or they take them out of their pockets or hoods.
I've recently started working for a company called Kidzmantra owned and run by Sam and Shikhaa Sharma. If you're organizing a children's party in Western Sydney especially near Parramatta or the surrounding suburbs they are by far the busiest and most reliable party entertainment and planning business. Last Saturday when I met Sam he'd done 10 gigs in one day, the most I've ever done is 5. On their google business listing they have an average rating of 4.9 stars based on 150 reviews. Consider how stressful organizing a birthday party for kids can be, and the chaos that can result from children being jacked up on sugar while surrounded by their friends. The fact that Shikhaa and Sam have so few negative reviews is quite impressive, they know how to handle children. Kidzmantra offer a huge range of services, like portable laser tag, jumping castles, clowns, superheros and my magic show. They've also just recently opened up a shop that sells party supplies.