Magician Christopher Howell at the Wintergarten entrance

I’ve never actually made a bucket list but one thing that would be on it if I had one would have been to perform at The Wintergarten Varieté in Berlin.  And it kept coming up: people all the time telling me after they’ve seen my Norvil & Josephine, act “Oh the Germans would devour this act!”  I could only hope someday they would. Famous are the rumours of how ravenous the Germans are for cabaret and variety: a fantasy world full of extravagant characters, impossible spectacles and tantalising stories that live on long after the curtain has dropped. Then it happened.  One dark October night last year while Norvil was meditating in his aviator armchair with a whisky tumbler poised in one hand and a billiard[…]

‘Norvil saunters through a member’s club as he leaves a trail of magic in his wake.’ It’s the brief for the most recent advert I worked on, this time consulting on the commercial and performing as my Norvil character for Hackett London menswear. Magic is making waves in advertising.  Numerous brands the last few years have incorporated magic in their advertising campaigns to make an impact.  Last year I performed in a film for Canali Menswear but this year with Hackett we went in an entirely different direction. The Hackett creative team have released diverse short films and campaigns recently with sporting and artistic personalities including Royal Ballet dancer Eric Underwood, skydiving cocktail makers, and the actor Toby Stephens.  For their most recent project they moved in a magical direction[…]

“If you build it, they will come” was the mantra that Desireé and I were chanting to ourselves throughout the backbreaking eight full days we spent constructing our latest marvel. And now we have it: our very own magic street theatre tent! It’s a portable home for our beloved double-act of magic, acrobatics and singing: Norvil & Josephine. The show’s been touring for over ten years.  So far though we’ve always played our comedy magic act in theatres and indoor venues. Putting together a routine for the magic street theatre, we had to hone a repertoire that’s happy with breezes (or gales) and the ever-so-occasional ‘misty’ summer days in Britain. In the days we were building our sideshow theatre tent, I read somewhere[…]

Magic has been especially popular on television the past few years and this month one of my acts shared some of the television magic fun with Ant & Dec on ITV.  In one of the most-watched shows on British television, Britain’s Got Talent, magicians have gotten into the finals the past few years (and last year, one won). Building on that, the eleventh season of the show has rolled around this year (that’s a feat of magic in itself!) and in March the Britain’s Got Talent production team invited my act ‘Norvil & Josephine’ to perform in the latest BGT commercial to advertise the new season. Norvil & Josephine are hard to miss but without even knowing you may have seen them already[…]

It’s not every day that you get asked to appear in a film where you’ll cut yourself in half.  So I was thrilled to be invited by the Italian luxury menswear brand Canali 1934 to consult on and perform in their 2016 holiday short film where I would end up doing exactly that. It’s been a trend with luxury brands to produce high-end cinematic ‘featurettes’ lately.  This is the latest one by Canali at the bottom of this post. The production team decided to make a short film about their beautiful products. The premise was to be that a magician called The Incredible Mr. C, (who I played) would conjure up elegant Canali gifts as part of his magical repertoire.[…]

I didn’t know it would be as if Benedict Cumberbatch was waiting for me at the theatre as I cycled over to the Hackney Empire for an Open House London tour this month. Hackney Empire is of course one of the great success stories of a UK variety theatre returning from the dead.  I also wanted to go because I’ve always had a soft spot for the place as it was the first theatre where we did a public show of my act Norvil & Josephine in a variety revue there in September 2007.  But here’s the thing… While Mr Cumberbatch wasn’t actually there that day, the Open House tour struck me as a sort of Sherlock Holmes examination of this gem of[…]

I’m just back from a whirlwind sweep of California. The first secret was for me. Even as I flew from Heathrow to San Francisco before a connecting flight to northern California, I still didn’t know where exactly I’d been booked to perform my show. I knew it was in a secret location a two-hour drive from the nearest small airport. My escort – a cowboy who worked at the estate I was headed for – greeted me at the airport and on the way he filled me in as to the specifics of this mystery. It turns out I had been booked to perform in an enchanted forest, of sorts. A private location tucked away in these magical Pacific woods I had[…]

My alarm went off and my eyes shot open looking toward the ceiling. It was the morning of Day Two of my most recent clown training workshop and I felt muscles used from the day before that I never knew I even had. My brain was fried as well – maybe just from being repeatedly catapulted out of my comfort zone for a continuous five hours the day before (sometimes to land with a splat!) Clowning can be many things but if you’ve never thought much about it, it’s probably not what you think it is. And I definitely had no idea what I was in for… BANANA PEEL IN POSITION: ENTER THE CLOWN STAGE RIGHT One sweltering summer’s day[…]

It’s almost like a cruel joke: your mouth is bone dry and the rest of your body has sprung leaks in places where you didn’t know sweat glands even existed! All this while your stomach feels like it’s either left your body or turned into an anvil. I know this from my experiences as a stage magician but it’s a wicked twist of fate that’s an all too-common feature in most people’s lives. Yes, that’s what I’m saying: you’re not alone. Karen Dwyer and Marlina Davidson are researchers at the University of Nebraska-Omaha who in 2012 carried out a survey of eight hundred and fifteen college students. The survey asked students to select from a list of the most common[…]

What’s there to do when it all falls apart?  People often ask if things ever go wrong for me as an illusionist in front of an audience.  Of course it happens but if the illusionist is good at improvising and has thoroughly thought through back-up plans then it can be a life saver.  Also, most of the time the audience doesn’t know what’s supposed to happen so the illusionist can usually work their way out of the pickle through some fancy footwork. But sometimes, it’s worse than that… The year was 2006 and I had been working frantically for months with my partner in crime Desireé Kongerød to create a brand new illusionist act to debut at London’s Old Billingsgate Market[…]