A packed house at the SIM last Tuesday evening were treated to a thought provoking nights entertainment by the brilliant Noel Britten and luckily for those of you who missed it Joe O'Donnell was there to capture it.
My first encounter with Noel Britten was at the IBM Irish Ring Convention in Belfast in 2007; I have fond memories of an uproarious re-enactment which he did in the course of the lecture of his famous Walk around Bath. To see an entire roomful of magicians get to their feet and follow Noel around the room as he described what and why he did this walk was both a hilarious and memorable experience. For those who don’t know, Noel is famous for–among many other things–his Bizarre Bath Walk whereby he leads a walking tour of his native city in a ninety minute blizzard of gags, historical information and improvised hilarity. Now in its twentieth year, the Walk , Noel states and who are we to disagree is the longest running magic show on the planet. It runs from March through October most nights and is a must–see for any visitor to Bath.
To a packed house of members and guests on a cold Tuesday night in January, Noel lectured the Society of Irish Magicians. I am not sure what the audience expected but there were mixed sighs of relief and disappointment when Noel announced that there would be no tricks. This was followed by a salvo on the lines of ‘As magicians we think we are special, but in fact we’re not. We’re not as great as we think we are.” This launched us into a witty and sometimes acerbic analysis of who we are, what we are, and what we could be. One could sense the unease as magicians were forced to face up to the reality of who we think we are.
In a world where the pros look down on the amateurs, the mentalists look down on the magicians, the magicians look down on the mentalists, and everybody looks down on the children’s entertainers–‘though if the truth be known, children’s entertainment becomes the banker to many a close-up or corporate career.
The cold hand of ineptitude falls heavy on those who look at their work through the perspective of ‘ah sure, it’ll do.” Attitude is all: and this was alarmingly illustrated by the showing of two clips from the TV Talent Show BRITAIN HAS TALENT. But the other Britten–Noel, that is–proved more than a hurler on the ditch; he offered some straight from the shoulder advice on what we as magicians can do to improve our art.
Scripting: do you have a definite script for every effect you do? Or do you leave it to the inspiration of the moment? Writing a script and rewriting and pruning and editing that script is the royal road to a cogent and fluent performance.
Cut out the sloppiness: fumbling in your case for instance while you look for the next prop in your set.
Learn something new every day, enlarge your horizons: and this applies not only to magic but to the allied disciplines of movement, speech, lighting and sound.
Personal charm, humility and a sense of humour are three things that can be enhanced by critical feedback from your peers.
The Question and Answer session that followed Noel’s lecture was as illuminating in what the questions proposed as it was to the tentative answers that were offered.
It was a brilliant if unsettling start to the New Year, and did precisely what Noel Britten had set out to do: shake us out of our complacency.
IrishMagicNews would like to thank Joe for the review and the SIM would like to thank everyone who was there. Over 40 of you.