About twenty years ago a more arrogant and an infinitely more teenage version of me put my arms around Paul Daniels, whilst waiting to head in to watch David Copperfield at Earls Court. If that were not enough, I made the sort of comment that could only come out of a particularly cocky young man and which still makes me blush to think about it today. So when I put my arm around Paul Daniels tonight I made sure to ask his permission first this time.
I’ve just got back from a masterclass in magical entertainment as I caught ‘Paul Daniels, The First Farewell Tour’ at Camberley Theatre. I have been a fan of the great man (and the lovely Debbie McGee) for more years than look possible if you have met me, and I was in no way disappointed tonight. In fact, having had the privilege to see The Illusionists at the Hammersmith Apollo only last week, I can honestly say that with the exception of the company (just in case my wife reads this!) I enjoyed tonight’s show more.
Of course, this may just be a sign that I am hitting middle age – and all the loud music and flashing lights of the Illusionists was too much for me (I may be revealing too much if I let you know that the real low point of that evening was my inability to obtain a cup of tea in Hammersmith at 11pm – and a hotel room without the necessary facilities!). The Camberley Theatre has been very nicely refurbished and was a pleasant venue with much to commend it – but the (I presume carefully planned and scripted) gags about music playing too long and the like would have been incongruous at the large scale London venue.
But I think there is more too it than just age and stage. A couple of the routines in the Illusionists seemed genuinely under-rehearsed – or simply poor quality. Everything tonight was polished. Perhaps there is a cultural thing going on since the Illusionists had a distinctly American feel to it and I am a Brit through and through. But like him or loathe him, Paul Daniels understands audiences – his timing and audience handling is superb – and, of course, he is (still) a fine magician.
There was a great variety in the show – everything from ‘grand illusion’ down. There was mental magic, card magic, a cameo appearance of the Bunco Booth – and Debbie performed a few routines of her own too. Perhaps this is all just the glowing nostalgia for a 70s/80s childhood. But I had a superb time tonight (a view shared by my fellow audience members) – and would encourage you to catch this seemingly under-publicised show if you get the chance.
Oh, and ask first if you’re going to give him a hug…
Tour details here: www.ents24.com/uk/tour-dates/paul-daniels