At a recent meeting of the Wellington Magic Club, as we discussed the merits of some things over others, the conversation turned to Steven Frayne. Frayne – possibly better known by his nom de magie, Dynamo – has been turning up on New Zealand television in his show Magician Impossible over the past few months. What struck me was how much of a reaction he caused among the group.
Whether it was because of his performance style, or his choice of effects, or his constant recounting of his hard-scrabble upbringing in Bradford, the common theme seemed to be a negative one. After querying this a bit, it turned out that some in the room had a similar story. When people found out they were magicians (either professional or hobbyists) the next question was ‘Can you do that thing that Dynamo does?’
Someone brought up that even if those in the room didn’t like Dynamo – for whatever reason – the important factor was that others did enjoy his performances, enough to watch and want to see more. I agreed with him. Isn’t that what’s important in magic – how performers make participants feel?
This led to more discussion about performance style, and how Dynamo is merely continuing what David Blaine had started. Using relatively straightforward effects and focussing the camera not as much on the performer and more on the reaction. Indeed, this has become the norm in televised magic, and the format works well for the young man from Bradford. I think he takes it a step beyond, though, with the travelogue aspects of his show. He uses travel to show the world through his eyes, and he uses his magic to bridge across cultures, which is a pretty neat trick.
The conversation went on more from there, talking about other famous magicians and what could be learned from them. It brought to mind a quote that’s attributed to Banksy:
Art comes alive in the arguments you have about it.
Ultimately, I don’t know if anyone was convinced about Mr Frayne. Some may still take it personally when they’re asked to put a mobile phone into a bottle. Others, however, may see it as an opportunity.