O Magicbar

Reported by Stuart Bowie

Illusions, the U.K's only Magic bar, has just opened for business in Bristol and of course magicseen's reporters were at the VIP night to tell you all.

The operation is the brainchild of Mark Bennett and combines his expertise in the hospitality business with a talent as a professional magician. " For some people magic can be scary," says Mark "so I wanted the bar to be warm and friendly, a bit like walking into your own front room." Illusions certainly lives up to the aspiration. Located in a lively shopping area, close to the university and a host of other attractions, an existing bar has been transformed. Comfortable sofas are gathered around low tables and the deep red walls are decorated with magic memorabilia and signed photographs from the likes of Doc Eason, Paul Zenon and Derren Brown.

Look to the right as you come in and sitting next to a beautiful baby grand piano is a small curtained stage, providing for cabaret and parlor magic. In a special area to the back sits the custom built magic bar which is surrounded by high bar stools. This is head magician Matt Colman's domain which provides room for small groups of twelve to fourteen at a time to enjoy the amazing close up on offer. Even though the main bar area was busy the intimacy for close up magic can be maintained. Judging from the reactions -whoops of delight and gasps of "Oh noooooo!" - the magic went down a treat.

The bar operates seven days a week serving drinks, food, special cocktails, including the challenging Magic Wand cocktail - five pints served in giant magic wand. With close up performances at the bar from 6.30 till after midnight, Matt Colman has really been earning his keep! The pressure was relieved a little on opening night by guest performances from visitors James Brown and Dave Jones. For those into a quieter and more mystic experience, the resident Tarot reader was kept busy by a steam of beautiful young women eager to learn the future.

"Performing at the bar is great experience and really develops performing skills," says Mark. "To encourage younger magicians we hold an Open Mic spot on Wednesday nights. It is an opportunity for performers who do well to make a further appearance on a busy Friday or Saturday night." Illusions also has several established magicians using the venue to entertain potential clients. Pop in anytime and you may well catch a host of local and national performers strutting their stuff at the bar. If you wanted a break from magic, and who would, there is also live music Friday and Saturday and an open mic night for musicians on Tuesdays.

Clients who book a party event at Illusions get their own special evening, soon to include the dubious privilege of the non-speaking part in the guillotine illusion! Future plans include cabaret nights, including special events with a well known name headlining on the small cabaret stage.

Bristol is a busy town with lots of entertainment on offer and to survive a new business has to offer something different. The location, the ambience and the great magic certainly makes Illusions different. The concept for Illusions is Mark Bennett's. There are no corporate backers waiting in the wings, just the innovation, energy and initiative of Mark and his partner Sylvie. At magicseen we're biased of course, anyone who loves magic would be, but we wish Illusions a long and successful life. All the people we spoke to at the opening really did feel "Wow, this was something different!"

Think that you're up to performing at Illusions? Give Mark a call on 0117 9093405 or 07974 005280

Illusions Magic Bar 2 Byron Place, South Triangle, Clifton, Bristol BS8 1JT www.illusionsmagicbar.co.uk www.myspace.com/illusionsmagicbar

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