Doing Time

Deck-Aid by Mark Leveridge

British magic dealer Mark Leveridge sent along three new items: a two video set on table-hopping; a packet trick geared toward the magician of average ability; and an intriguing new device for card workers.

The Art of Hopping Tables is a two video set; the first video focuses on the nuts and bolts aspects of performing close-up magic in real world settings, the second video explains the seven routines Mark performs on the first tape. I want to emphasize right now (and I'll remind you at the end of the review) that The Art of Table Hopping Part One contains no trick explanations; routines are performed and discussed in terms of audience management and performance problems, but no methods are given. If you want the methods, then you'll also need Part Two.

Part One begins with Mark explaining how he packs for the gig, and during this explanation he discusses subjects such as clothing and toiletries. He then explains how he organizes his props for an evening's work, including his use of a small bag to carry extra props and his use of a very small close-up mat to use as a performance area. Next is a performance segment which was shot live at a hotel where Mark regularly performs, and which uses real people as helpers. What we see is not "Table Hopping" in the way that it is thought of in the United States. Rather than performing for people at restaurant tables, Mark roams through several lounge areas of the hotel, performing for small groups of people seated on chairs and couches around coffee tables. This is a very casual atmosphere, and Mark has no problems joining these groups. He performs two or three tricks before moving on to another group of spectators.

In the next segment of the tape, Mark and Chris Payne review the evening's performance. This is done in a Q & A format, and Mark replays sections of the performance portion as he discusses such subjects as personality, technique, and audience control. A very interesting aspect of this is the discussion of what to do if something goes wrong. At one point in the performance segment there was a minor glitch, and Mark explains what was going through his mind as he extricated himself from the situation. I don't think I have seen anything like this discussed on video.

In the final portion of the tape, Mark interviews Stuart Bowie, a very experienced strolling/close-up magician. Stuart offers some valuable information, especially in working a cocktail party/banquet situation.

I applaud Mark for taking the risk of producing a video which only discusses the concerns of the real life close-up worker. I don't think that anything exactly like this has been offered on the market. If you are interested in entering this field, this tape is full of useful information. There are only two negative comments I could make: The performance segment in the hotel was shot using just one camera. We therefore do not get the close-up shots which would be helpful to make the action clearer to the home viewer. Also, I wonder whether the spectators are reacting naturally, considering that they know they are being video taped. I'm sure that there was no way to avoid this, but the audience does seem to be somewhat subdued.

Part Two of The Art of Hopping Tables explains the seven routines which Mark performs on Part One. These include: "Spin Out," the flash appearance of a selected from a closed card case; "The Hypnotized Coin," a four phase coin and handkerchief routine; "Copy Ring," in which the magician materializes an exact duplicate of the spectator's ring; "The Department Store," a very commercial routine using a blank faced deck; and "Aces Under Control," a very simple way of producing four aces. None of these effects are particularly earth shaking, but they are effective, and would serve very well as the middle routine of a three routine "set." Technical requirements are minimal, and all the routines are well within the abilities of the average magician.

If you are considering performing close-up magic professionally, these tapes will give you a lot of information. Do remember, however, that there are no trick explanations in Part One. In order to have everything explained, you will need to purchase both tapes. (Mark does offer a discount if you order both tapes at the same time.)

"Doing Time" is a packet trick geared toward the magician of average abilities. Here is the effect: The magician shows two five-card packets, one red-backed, one blue-backed. The faces of the cards depict cartoon criminals - each packet containing the same five pictures. The spectator selects a criminal from the blue-backed cards. The red-backed cards are waved over the selected crook, and when the red packet is spread, one crook has turned face up - the same crook the spectator selected. The red packet is placed aside. The blue packet is now spread face up, and the pictures of the other four criminals have changed: they are now all behind bars.

This falls into the "cute" category of tricks, and Mark has arranged matters so that at the end of the routine almost all the cards can be examined. This makes it easy to effectively manage "grabby" spectators. However, I do think that the handling Mark offers can be streamlined considerably. I know that his goal was to keep the technical requirements to a minimum, but this results in a cluttered handling. But, the effect is commercial, and if your card knowledge is minimal, Mark's handling is certainly useable.

Finally, "Deck-Aid" is an extremely intriguing "key card" gimmick, and I am totally at a loss as to how to review it. Mark provides you with three gaffed cards (two bicycle-back cards - one red, one blue- and a blue-backed Piatnik card) and an 18-page instruction booklet which details various effects and handlings for the "Deck-Aid" gimmick. The gimmicked card functions as a locator card (such as a corner-short, or a breather), but can also be used in a unique way as a "long distance" locator. In addition, you can control blocks of cards, such as the four aces, or even the thirteen cards of a suit.

I have had a lot of fun playing with this gaff, and have come up with some applications for the kind of card work I do. The only reason that I am unsure how to review this is because of the price. Mark is asking $24 for the three gaffs and the booklet. You are really paying for the secret here, because the gaffs are very inexpensive. I'm not sure that the average close-up magician is going to get $24 worth of benefit from this. But then again, I might be wrong. If it were priced at $10 I would have no problem recommending it wholeheartedly, but I know that Mark values the secret more than that. Anyway, I'm on the fence. If you've bought "Deck-Aid" why don't you drop me line and let me know what you think. I'll tabulate the results and pass the info along to the rest of the readership.

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