Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Showman/Shaman - there are lots of kinds of magic

This one's for Pop, now I realise that his 100th is coming up. Richard Rudgley is doing a 'Pagan's' programme on UK TV - and showed the Bronze Age magician's hats (that's what they recently decided to describe them as) - with dots representing the stars, and Sun Moon cycles, etc.

No surprise to me - look at this card (above, click to enlarge) that my dad sent to me in the 50s, with a picture of his magician puppet.

Glove puppets don't have a floor (think about it) so they don't need trapdoors. This character used to appear slowly - tip of his pointed hat first - he would rise through the 'floor'. In this picture his wand has a 'christmas tree bauble' attached, but my favourite wand had a ring of wire. After he had been onstage a while he would cross his arms, and the wire tip of the wand would drop out of sight. With his other hand, my dad would dip the wire ring in bubble mixture - next time the magician waved his wand - bubbles! Simple but effective in a live show.

And that 'no-floor' business had other advantages. An empty pot inverted on a little platform (sticking out the back, from the top edge of the stage frame) could have an ice-cream (the 50s dream) secretly loaded into it. He had built a little lift to rise up through this mini-trapdoor, with a peg to hold it in the 'up' position.

You wonder why I became a juggler? It was my dad who encouraged ambidexterity. I watched my showman/shaman dad do this: have the magician appear mysteriously through the stage floor - do a little intro - show the pot empty - magician crosses his arms - puppeteer slides up the ice-cream lift with the other hand, and pegs it in place - then grabs the bubble mixture and dips the tip of the wand - all the while animating, and talking through, the magician.

OK - nearly there - wave the wand - "Ooooh! bubbles!" Lift the previously empty pot to reveal ice-cream for child volunteer. (Applause point)

And, of course, my dad had done the study - he had been a Theosophist, etc. That hat is not a coincidence...but this description was only confirmed in the last couple of years.
"The wizards of early Europe wore hats of gold intricately embellished with astrological symbols that helped them to predict the movement of the sun and stars." The show I am talking about was what Panto was doing in the 1950s.

1 comment:

pentaphobe said...

Always nice to hear more about earlier branches of the family, I'll put in a few gestures as well. Thanks for posting this.

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