Three images from magician themed films

The writer Sonny Arifien asked me to contribute to his blog Privilege of Legends. It explores the art of cinema and film as an art form. His latest post ‘Sleight of Hand: The Magic of Deception’ looks at how cinema grew out of the world of magic. It explores some ways how cinema has kept engaging in the subject of magicians in film ever since. Here’s my chat with Sonny… ON WHY MAGIC ENDURES THROUGH THE AGES Sonny: Why do you think magic continues to capture our hearts and imaginations? Christopher: I think magic answers to basic desires in the human condition. Imagine how it would be for example to change something in the world with a click of your[…]

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[…]

What do Lady Gaga, a string of Broadway musicals and Harry Potter all have in common? The answer is magic consultant Paul Kieve. He’s accumulated an impressive list of projects he’s consulted for, adding magic to shows that tell stories. I did a degree in theatre and I’ve always been interested in storytelling. So what Paul does using magic to help tell stories I’ve always thought is some of the most magical magic out there. I sat down with Paul a few months ago over coffee to chat about these things and have finally managed to get it in writing. Here I am with Paul talking about how magicians can better connect with their audiences, the ‘problem’ of the magician’s ego,[…]

As I walked through the drizzly December morning in the once shishi Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens after my interview with magician Kevin James, I couldn’t help but think that a hundred years of entertainment history had come full-circle back to this moment. Over coffee Kevin told me he had discovered that just down the road from where we sat, the Queen’s Head pub had been owned by Charlie Chaplin’s uncle. Chaplin had said that it was the distinctive gait of the stable hand who worked in the stables next to that pub that inspired the most famous walk in entertainment history. Still wonder why has anything come full-circle? OK, here’s the answer: Kevin’s of course the magician who for decades has bemused[…]

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[…]

“Josephine and I were running through the backstage corridors of this beautifully ornate theatre. We were guiding ourselves by the exciting and powerful sparkle coming from the wings. We were already there, we could feel the audience’s roar resonate between the horseshoe shaped wooden balconies.” Norvil, my debonair alter ego, performed his stage magician act Norvil & Josephine  in the Leeds City Varieties Theatre a few weeks ago. For those who do not know, this handsome theatre has the honor of being one of the very few that have kept the variety genre alive in one of its traditional forms. Hat off from me! Variety shows have been a natural habitat for a stage magician such as Norvil or the famous[…]