He describes himself as "loud and brash" and John Archer certainly lived up to his own billing.
But his entertaining lecture also revealed that he is one of the most thoughtful magicians on the circuit.
The entertainment came in his series of one-liners and put-downs, starting with "You havenít got a speaking part" to the first person unfortunate enough to voice his thoughts out loud.
The insights came in every one of his effects from his "world record" Magic Square to "Collared" in naming a pet dog. With surgical precision, he dissected what he called the "niggles" in performance, whether it be angles, patter, presentation or logic.
And if there was ever any need to demonstrate that good magicians pick up tips every time they perform, John Archer showed that his version of the "Tossed Out Deck" (with spectators visualising their glimpsed cards on imaginary cinema screens) gives the effect additional impact.
He is an excellent story-teller and keen to promote "strong" moments of magic.
John Archerís audience handling is superb and his lecture was an object lesson in how to let your spectators know that youíre in charge without being unnecessarily aggressive or rude.
But the most valuable lesson I learned was not to sit in the front row on John Archerís left if you want to avoid being "picked on" as a running gag throughout his act.
John Archer describes his on-stage personality as a "loveable bully". He certainly "bullied" me - and I loved it. But perhaps thatís a different write-up ...
Sussex Magic Circle Stage Competition Thursday, January 24, 2008
Itís been said that all magic is stage magic. Close-up performances are merely stage magic in miniature.
If that is so, then the skills of stage magic are essential to our art.
This yearís competition proved its value in both quality and quantity.
"Captain Leo" was certainly dressed for the part - with his pirateís costume, headband and sword. He even had a bottle of rum which he used to good effect as a running gag throughout his act. He adapted his tricks well to suit his character with a sponge ball routine ending with a clever "eye/aye" visual and verbal punchline. "Captain Leo" also gave us a nice tale involving cards with a treasure theme.
He was followed by Ros who has some excellent patter. His great strength is his self-deprecating humour which is always guaranteed to win over audiences. A good storyline led seamlessly into torn and restored newspaper. Rosís likeable nature shone through again with his Needle Through Arm routine and balloon swallow. He certainly knows how to command the stage and hold an audience.
A single theme comprised Mike Pettitís act. Dressed immaculately as ever, he produced a colourful display of silk magic. It was perfectly paced, smoothly executed and well routined. If the test of silk magic is whether it produces gasps from the audience, then Mike passed with flying colours.
Paul Leacy opened with Pen Through Note. He was relaxed throughout his performance, even able to joke about his use of a streamer which Mike had previously used in his act. Paulís three linking rings was part-serious, part-comic (which is probably the best way to perform this effect to magicians). Showmanship is an important part of stagecraft and Paul gave it his all with his Cards Across routine with the help of Matt and Stuart. Despite it being one of the classics, Paul always manages to bring a fresh edge to his Cups and Balls routine - his misdirection and timing are a wonder to behold. This led him neatly into his "Corporate Juggling" as a finale.
The first four competitors managed to fill the stage with their presence. The fifth and final competitor, John Holden, managed to fill it with his props as well.
His opening routine of Silks to Umbrellas (set to music) began what turned out to be an impressive array of productions, manipulations and transformations. Johnís ever-present smile showed he was enjoying being centre-stage. The section with John as a Frenchman was the "piece de resistance".
The high standard of competition made the judging difficult but Paul Leacy was the deserved winner.
Spare a final thought for Ali Ceurvorst who was the official timekeeper for the night but the tight routining of all five acts meant he was deprived of his chance to declare "two minutes to go". Better luck next time, Ali. Remember: All the worldís a stage ...