Performing Magic with Impact is a difficult book to categorise. It makes a bold claim in its title? Does it deliver on the promise? Let’s get in to our review.
Speaking from experience
A great starting point for this book is that it is written by a practitioner. There are many books on magic theory, but not all are written by people who perform. This one is.
I’m going to walk you through the chapters because it is quite difficult to summarise.
The ‘introduction’ consists of an interview with George Parker. He explains the context for much of his work – which is in the field of corporate training and in particular helping people think about change. This is quite a specific field and brings a different focus from the regular magic gig of many magicians. However, some of the principles he expounds upon are really helpful in a subject which is close to my heart – thinking about the meaning and the ‘why’ of what we do.
Chapter One is all about Communication. This is a fundamental area for any performer to think about. He illustrates his theory with concrete examples which helps enormously.
Between many of the chapters are routines that George regularly performs. The first of these – Micro-Metamorphosis – is a very practical walkaround coin transposition.
Chapter Two is about the Impact to Effort Ratio. Again, for anyone performing for a living this is worth considering. You can pour an enormous amount of effort into an effect which never quite impacts the audience in the way you would like. And the opposite can also be true. Worth thinking about.
As an illustration of this he explains his routine The Bigger Picture – which is a nice twist on a commercially available routine which you would need to purchase.
Chapter Three is all about preparing for things going wrong. He analyses different possible areas for things to go wrong and some suggestions for minimising the risk.
Stimulating your imagination
The next chapter is all about a concept he has marketed called ‘TheSurvivalVersion’. He contends that the principle will help with creativity in coming up with routines. It may well help you.
By way of illustration he teaches a Torn and Restored Card routine developed using this technique. It’s a really nice, impromptu effect which is not too difficult to do but does require a certain amount of boldness! I liked it.
Chapter Six is all about interaction. Again, this is sort of applied communication theory. He explores something called the Leary Interpersonal Circumplex – which is a way of analysing character types/dynamics. I’d never come across this before and it is a helpful lens through which to consider how you ‘play’ your character throughout a routine. By consciously shifting ‘mode’ you can potentially make your performance more interesting for the spectator.
The next chapter provides another way of thinking creatively about your routines – imagining them done in multiple styles. He mentions a book called Exercises in Style – which I now want to read! He includes here a really nice Card to Card Box routine. I don’t really follow how it is related to the concept of style under consideration, but it is an excellent solution to this kind of prop. You don’t need to buy any special props – though you will need to make a very basic gimmick.
Chapter Eight explores the idea of taking an idea normally done with playing cards and performing it with a different prop (a bit like we saw on Dice, Dice, Baby). Again, this is a helpful lens to get your creativity flowing. He illustrates it with a routine involving postcards – which owes something to Eugene Burger’s excellent work on the ‘Black Envelope’ (which you can learn here). It’s a good routine.
Chapter Nine raises the question of openers. What are you communicating with your entrance on stage and very first routine? And how would you like to change that. He explains his 12321 routine – which is a sort of extended remix of the classic Professor’s Nightmare. It’s a good routine which I would like to try out. He illustrates it with several scripts to show how it could be used in different contexts.
The Final Chapter is perhaps what you might have expected given the title. It is about making things play bigger and thinking about different techniques and strategies to do that. There are some helpful checkpoints to run through to think about individual effects and indeed the structuring of your whole act. I would have liked to see a little more on that last section. But he does provide some suggested further resources (really on scriptwriting) to help you continue to think about it. The illustrative routine here is a surprisingly showy take on The Grandmother’s Necklace principle! To my surprise I could see this working really well.
I really enjoyed reading this. Disclaimer – I love pondering the theory of magic – and I’m already a fan of thinking carefully about what you are saying and doing as you perform. In that respect I think Parker’s work is a much condensed version of Scripting Magic.
Performing Magic with Impact is nicely produced – a 23x15cm perfect bound book – well illustrated and easy to read. The pricing is fair for a limited edition magic book.
If I had to sum up the intent of the book in a sentence I would put it like this: Creating Magic with Impact is written to help you unleash your creativity and think carefully about the presentation of your magic. And for my money it achieves that target pretty well.
If you’re the sort of person that just performs tricks ‘out of the box’ with the supplied ‘patter’ don’t bother. But if you’re the sort of person who likes to think carefully about their routines and scripts then I would highly commend spending a few hours of your time with this book.
You can pick up a copy of Performing Magic with Impact from MagicShop.co.uk for £22.99 (at the time of writing).
Review copy kindly provided by Murphys Magic to whom dealer enquiries should be directed.
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