I was delighted that Sunday’s show opened with a second helping of Dion, this time with his award-winning Tango act. The story is of a man being jilted for a dinner date. The use of the props around him was very inventive in conveying the story. When reading a note, the petals dropped from a rose in his hand. The lightbulb from the table lamp, a silk and a candle all played a part in this evocative set piece. The gift he’d brought for his absent lady contained a necklace – and one of its over large beads was used for a manipulation sequence. The appearance of fans was unexpected and led into the tango section which encompassed card manipulations and then the disappearance and, later, reappearance of a walking stick.
The compere/MC for this show, John Martin, was, as seems to be traditional at Blackpool, a comedian rather than a magician. As always the gags were a mixed bunch of some good topical ones and a collection of ‘My wife…’ lines. As always it was an acquired taste, no disrespect to him, for much of the audience laughed loudly. Naturally the overseas visitors, who were all around me, were at a loss.
Chris Torrente was a very unusual performer. His billard ball manipulations, done in classic evening wear, was interrupted by a dog barking. The magician continued but his annoyance grew as the dog became more frenzied. At one point it was captured but then…. it got free again and continued being annoying. The whole thing was hilarious, a great mix of magic and comedy in a very novel way.
Jidinis were illusionists from France. They produced a white poodle from an empty cage and a girl from a box. The poodle was then vanished, a dalmation appearing in its place. This dog was sent through a wringer and came out as a fur coat! They ended with a sawing illusion using a circular saw.
Donimo’s act was a great mix of comedy, mime and magic. There was a lot of fun with the microphone stand and a smoking thumb. A girl was invited on stage for a paper tearing sequence that ended with a red heart being presented to her. A miniature unicycle and a paper hat also made appearances.
One of the most talked about acts was the dove act of Gerald de Guilloux. His only obvious stage dressing was an odd tree-like table. Doves came from flames, a single dove regarding its reflection in a mirror suddenly became a pair, smoke filled bubbles became doves and one emerged from a chalk board. Gerald performed Drink in News before bringing a dove from the paper too; then small cages began to appear from nowhere. He ended with the appearance, and the ‘where from?’ is still being discussed, of two poodles!
An interval beckoned. Then it was onto the awards ceremony and the presentations from Life President Ken Dodd. The Murray Award went to Blackpool Magicians Club’s current President, David Plant. Beat the Wand, an anarchic competition held the previous night, was won by Aaron Cummings with Alex Hemmes in second place and Paul J Johnson in third.
There was a certificate shown to the audience which was the Guiness Book of Records award for 2016 being the largest convention in the world with 3613 people attending. The Children’s Entertainers National Championships was won by Gordon Drayson, with Magic Curty from Norway coming second and Billy Bo third.
Ken Dodd eventually presented the Comedy Trophy to Otto Wessley; I did not catch the name of the winner of the Neville King Award.
Rafael’s amazing vampire act opened the second half.. As always it was innovative and fun with the hunch-backed butler opening the coffin so that the vampire was able to rise up and out. A girl’s head appeared in a briefcase on top of a box. A half-girl/half-skeleton pushing a trolley brought a box containing a dress which was dropped into the briefcase and the girl in there was able to emerge whole. Vampire Rafael then passed his hand through his butler’s body in order to reach his drink.
Finally he sat side by side with the girl on a sofa and an unusual split body illusion took place that really gets better every time you see it!
Igor Trifunov performed with cigars and bottles which appeared and disappeared over and over. Bottles doubled and bubbles were filled with smoke to then burst and become bottles. The act ended with the appearance of a giant bottle.
Otto Wessley was back on stage in this show too. His cane act was full of life and colour and a string of fire was whirled more and more slowly until it became a cane. A dancing cane was inevitable and more and more canes appeared to fill the stage and end in a shower of gold glitter.
Jeff McBride closed the show. He began with his mask act, then his Miser’s Dream as it should be done. Using flapping fans to whip up the audience’s clapping in time to the music Jeff then displayed his famous Water Bowls routine. A sequence of D’Lites on the edge of a fan was a pretty interlude and lights also appeared and disappeared around a mask which turned Jeff into a robot. A huge laugh rose when Jeff’s interesting assistant, Eugene Burger, caught the lights as they were thrown towards him – and his beard was now lit and glowing with them all around its edge. After announcing that he and Eugene were celebrating twenty-five years of working together, Jeff ended with his world famous card manipulations and card scaling.
It was an excellent Gala Show and a fitting end to a very exciting and full convention weekend. See you there in 2017?