Will Houstoun & Harry De Cruz
Viseo Chat Magic
A loyal nucleus of MML members was augmented by a number of guests for the joint lecture by Will Houstoun and Harry De Cruz, which proved to be a stand-out event in our 2021 season.
Will began by explaining the charitable origins of the Video Chat Magic initiative, which has raised $36,000. With the advent of the new genre of Zoom magic, practitioners had a decision to make; whether to attempt to adapt the ‘old’ magic to fit the new working conditions or to exploit, rather than be constrained by, the new parameters. Will, Harry and Steve Thompson were among those who approached the new challenges positively.
The first effect used the long-established idea of a strictly limited number of cards being visible in a set-up ‘messy spread’, the revelation being arrived at by spelling the name of the chosen one. It was an ingenious blend of known concepts, much stronger than its component parts. Will pointed out that this principle could also be used to enhance the Tossed Out Deck.
Next up was a grid effect which owed a lot to Chris Wardle’s Revel-ation routine as seen at a previous meeting, as well as other magical minds such as Martin Gardner and Robert Neale. Unfortunately, although Chris did join us, problems with technology meant that he narrowly missed this presentation. The effect used a number of audience members sitting in the now familiar Zoom ‘gallery view’ pattern and being systematically eliminated to arrive at the predicted person.
The ‘digital forcing bag’ came into operation again with Harry, when a freely chosen card box was found to contain only a single card – the one randomly named by the volunteer. This again depended upon the reduced ‘sight lines’ afforded by the computer screen.
Just before and after the interval, we entered the realms of digital masking, and saw how the ancient ‘black art’ principle could be up-dated. One effect used to illustrate this section was the vanish of a miniature toy pig by Jack Griggs, which had appeared in Abra magazine many moons ago. The ability to manipulate time by pausing or re-winding video images was mind-boggling. By rendering them ‘out of sync’ with a ten-second lapse, it was possible to predict moves which, in fact, had already happened . . . or apparently to train a spider!
The final couple of items allowed viewers to participate in their own homes, creating particularly strong magic. In one, the distanced assistant counted down to his own chosen card as directed by the rest of the dispersed audience, acting in unison.
Finally, a card chosen by a participant and made to vanish by the magician ended up in a previously empty envelope which had been posted days ahead. Credit was given to Ted Lesley’s Paramiracles. Indeed, sources were meticulously cited throughout.
It soon became obvious that ‘Zoom’ magic is limited only by an individual’s imagination, and Will and Harry had harnessed its potential in spectacular fashion. It must have been akin to the exhilaration David Devant experienced when realising the potential of moving pictures and the possibilities afforded by stop-frame photography.
Everyone attending agreed that they had witnessed the boundaries of magic being pushed into new dimensions, in the company of two consummate teachers. It was an afternoon which will still be talked about in many years to come.