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Derren Brown and Reframing Your Magic Tricks


Like a refreshing shower of rain in the middle of a long, laborious summer, a man stepped onto our screens in a long velvety coat and a rather predictable goatee beard and for me, changed the way I look at magic. He dazzled us not just with his magical fingerings, but with his beautiful use of the queens English.

He performed the impossible right in front of our mortal eyes and left us in a mystical limbo (that is until he clicked his fingers and assured us that everything will be alright.)

That was a few years ago when I first saw Derren Brown on his first outing (I think) with Channel 4. That’s when he showed us a card trick and then horrors and horrors showed us how he did it, concluding with the words, “That’s the only tricks you’ll SEE tonight.” BRAVO! From then on we were hooked.

In the following years I’ve heard laymen regaling their own experiences of watching Derren Brown perform. The superlatives to describe this phenomenon were abundant but there was a part of me that wanted to say, look its all about exposure. I’m sure Derren himself would point you back to the guys who are out there every night on the performers circuit doing the same job, sometimes even better.

But hang on that’s not why I’m writing this. No, this is a commentary on the importance of presentation and I think Derren Brown is a master to be emulated in his approach to his act.

Here’s what I mean. The modern magic world is constantly looking for the next best trick, the next ‘What If I could do this…’ That is fine if you want to spend another hundred on a draw filler. But what about the old tricks? The ones that your granddad used to teach us or the first ones we saw in the Paul Daniel’s books (Sorry I’m not old enough to remember beyond that).

You give Derren and the boys a pick a card trick and they will take you on a journey into Van Demons land with your only saviour being that of the clever ledgerman uttering the immortal words, “Was your card the seven of clubs? Then you are left to wonder why you are standing in a pool of your own wee, wee. It’s just a pack of cards for goodness sake!

Suddenly that parlor trick has enough power to get you through college. To further illustrate this…

Pick a card, any card. OK look at it and remember it. In fact put it away so there is no way I can see it. Now I’m going to reveal your card. Blah! Blah! Blah! Big freakin’ deal.

Directors Cut: OK look at me and imagine your card right in front of you. Imagine the colors, make them bright and vivid but don’t give out any signals. I can tell by the strength of your stance…etc…etc that your card is a red…etc…etc.

I hope you see how the misdirection works on so many levels. You misdirect their thoughts, ideas away from the mechanics of a very simple magic trick and they are going to go away and not tell about a magic trick they have seen, they are going to talk about an experience of two people involved in a mind meld.

I guess my point has been not to underestimate the power of reframing old tricks, which have laid the foundation of what the universe of magic is built upon.

An archaeologist may be the only person who can see the inherent beauty in whatever he may find in the bottom of a hole. In the same way we can take the old tricks of the masters and re-energize them for a brand new, more hipper audience.

Submitted by:

Paul Frith

Paul Frith is the creator of http://ShoutAboutMagic.com, a small site that hopes to grow a community of magic lovers, a place to meet and discuss anything about magic. You can go there now@ http://www.shoutaboutmagic.com.





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