Those Awkward Moments

We all experience awkward moments— generally our own fault. Far too many of us get a new trick and rush it on to our programme without studying it for every possible contretemps. In short, we ask for trouble.

I find that my family, especially the inlaws, are the best critics. They have seen so many tricks and are so used to my style of presentation, that if I can get anything past them, I should feel safe with, say Lenz, who has an eye like a cobra! Hence my first bit of advice is—try it out on the folks at home when they are in that mood of "All right, go on, but don't be long about it". In short, they are ready to pick holes in what you may think is the neatest of garments.

No doubt you can cap any of my experiences; but let's look at one or two of them. The worst was at a show on a special guest night with Civic and Rotary notabilities present in a full house. I had to do my turn in front of the tabs, whilst the scene behind was being changed. . I hadn't been going long before a stage hand moving a sofa butted me in the rear through the curtain and pitched me straight into the front row of seats. (I still bear the scars). Everybody laughed, of course. I did my best to appear cheerful and muttered something about never thinking I should fall so low down the bill as that !

The point of telling you that story is that human nature is basically kind. Upon returning rapidly to the stage, I had quite an ovation and found the audience entirely "with" me, especially when I occasionally rubbed my elbow or peered round to see that all was well. So, my advice is—always make fun of your troubles. If, for example, you suffer interruption from "Noises-off"—USE them. Comment on the wonderful applause at THIS end of the theatre, anyway; or refer to the delight of the lepracauns behind the curtain. Don't look annoyed or put out.

The Living and Dead Test gave me a shock on one occasion. A woman had written down the name of her husband who had begn killed in a car crash a few days previously. When I revealed the name of the dead person, she collapsed and had to be carried out. I did my best to allay alarm and to attribute the fainting-fit to the heat. Then I carried on quickly with the most amusing trick in my repertoire. But there is a lesson there. When inviting anybody to write the name of somebody who has passed on, add something like "somebody you only vaguely knew." After the show, I went to the home of the lady who had fainted and found her in a distressed condition. She thought there was something supernatural about what I had done. Of course, I reassured her and told her frankly that it was a trick.

A different kind of experience came my way when recently I performed at a dinner at the Dorchester Hotel. I had set my table for mental magic—with a stacked pack, envelopes in a certain order and so on. During the dinner I noticed that a waiter was dumping something on my little table. I went to it and found that he had spilled some of the salad on my things. The cards were now out of order and bits of beetroot and salad dressing were sprinkled nicely about. Fortunately I had brought my table napkin with me, and as I always carry a piece of rag and a sheet of blotting paper with me, I was able to clean up the mess. Incidently, a good way to cover yourself when having to restack a pack or something secret is to get down behind the piano or, in a serious emergency, to pay a hurried visit to the gents cloakroom—to get some water, of course.

One of the latest "awkward moments" is to find that a young member of the audience has never heard of a slate! Slates are not used in most schools nowadays. So—call your slate your "little blackboard" or "chalk book". Be careful, too, over referring to colours in political terms. Phrases like "the Reds" or "True Blues" can give offence in some places. Remember, too, that you can get into an awkward moment if you make any political reference at Women's Institute. One of the rules—rigidly kept—at these Institutes is that there must be no comment on political or religious subjects. It is also a fact that, in a few circles, playing-cards are barred. More than once I have been asked not to perform tricks with cards. You can have a very awkward moment if you are suddenly stopped; but the real anxiety comes when you find that a would-be helper doesn't know the denominations of playing-cards. It doesn't happen often; but it is wise to have something up your sleeve in case it does. Don't forget the Lexicon deck, or, if you are in a jam, rely on the pip cards and make your patter refer to NUMBERS.

(Continued on Page 129)

GENEVE - 11-15 Septembre

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