Thursday, 9 July 2015

Mysterious Dramaturgy: Ryan Davidson @ Grand Central Hotel 2015


Intimate magic show, Little Mysteries, is continuing its sell-out run as it passes the halfway point of a one-year residency at Glasgow’s iconic Grand Central Hotel.

Glasgow sleight-of-hand artist and magician, Ryan Davidson, has already performed 20 shows to audiences of no more than 15 the last six months.

And his weekly performances are receiving rave reviews – as well as unstoppable demand for tickets.

Described by audience members as ‘astounding’, ‘mind-blowing’ and ‘a must-see’, Little Mysteries gives smaller audiences a unique opportunity to witness close-up magic, and hear the unique narrative that goes alongside.

Ryan, who has studied the art of deception for the last decade, said: “The show has done even better than I could ever have imagined. I really enjoy performing to a more intimate audience as they get to see everything as closely as possible and really feel part of the show.

“It’s always been an ambition of mine to have a regular show in Glasgow, and Grand Central was my first pick in terms of a venue – it’s iconic, famous throughout the city and has the vibe I was looking for to fit with the show. I was delighted when they agreed to let me perform every Saturday night for the full year. This is my third one-man show, and it’s definitely been third time lucky.”

Graeme Gibson, general manager of Grand Central Hotel, said: “Having Ryan perform regularly was an easy decision for us, despite this being the first residency we’ve offered since re-opening. The show is slick and understated, but evokes a great reaction and is memorable for everyone who goes along to watch – so was the perfect fit for the hotel.

“Those coming to the hotel for the show can enjoy dinner and drinks with us before or after each performance – either in Tempus or Champagne Central. We’ve had some wonderful feedback so far, and look forward to welcoming even more people to Grand Central for the next six months of Little Mysteries.”

Little Mysteries is performed by Ryan Davidson every Saturday evening from 7pm at Grand Central Hotel, Glasgow.

Glasgow-born Ryan Davidson has been performing close-up magic at private and corporate events for the last 10 years, and has written and performed three one-man shows – Past Times of the Strange(2012), An Honest Deception (2014) and Little Mysteries (2015).

Ryan is also an ambassador for the John Hartson Foundation.

Grand Central Hotel, Glasgow is a recipient of seven awards at the Scottish Hotel Awards 2013 including Scottish Hotel of the Year.

The hotel is part of the PH Hotels collection of 21 properties across the UK. In 2010, it underwent a £20 million refurbishment, transforming it in to one of the city’s most stylish wedding, conference, training, banqueting and short break properties.

Located in the centre of the city, adjacent to Glasgow Central train station, the four-star hotel offers 21 flexible event rooms all boasting state-of-the-art technology and with room for up to 400 guests or delegates.

Guests at The Grand Central will be staying where icons such as JFK, Winston Churchill and Frank Sinatra have visited. So whether a visit’s for business, leisure or a celebration, guests can relax in stylish surroundings.

What inspired this production: did you begin with an idea or a script or an object?
I’ve always been interested in people’s relationship with mystery and I wanted to try to capture that in a close-up magic show. I loved the idea of giving someone a locked box and asking them to think of all the things that could possibly be inside it. Then, take it away and leave them with this feeling of wonder. That was the starting point for Little Mysteries

What can the audience expect to see and feel - or even think - of your production?
It’s hard to say without giving too much away. The show has elements that are very personal but there’s some historical context too. 

There’s a narrative to the show that everyone can relate to. I think there’s a wide range of emotions that it evokes during the 80 minutes. 

One minute you’re laughing and then you’re gasping. Next, you’re reminiscing about your childhood. At the finale of the show you’re torn between wanting to know and wanting to stand up and leave. 
There have been people crying at the end of the show. I suppose that’s a good thing? 

How would you explain the relevance - or otherwise - of dramaturgy within your work?
It was something I never really gave much thought to in the early days. When I was performing close-up magic the affect was so strong I didn’t care for dramaturgy. 

When I thought about performing I never thought about the staging, lighting, music, the use of space, positioning of props, use of set pieces, timing, pacing, scripting and use of language. Proper dramaturgy. The magic was fucking brilliant! Who cares about all the other stuff? 

It wasn’t until I wrote my first show Past Times Of The Strange I started to think about using music and lighting and trying to create an atmosphere. The response to that show was far greater than first expected. One night for 30 people soon turned into a full weekend run of four nights to 65 people each night. It all sold out in less than an hour. We went on to do 12 shows that year that all sold out. 

I knew I had to step it up for the next one. I decided I would hire a director and a set designer for my 2014 show An Honest Deception. I had an old friend with a background in theatre that had directed shows all over the world. His name is Brendon McIlroy. 

He knew nothing about magic. Absolutely nothing. He had never seen me perform so much as a card trick. 

I had no idea what to expect. I gave him a script and a synopsis of each effect in the show.  I never performed any of the effects during the rehearsals. He directed it from a fantasy in his head. That was all I gave him to work from.

What he brought to that show changed the way I thought about performing. He had me using the space in front of the table, behind the table, interacting with the set as well as the audience and justifying the use of everything that was on that stage. The choreography of each routine became almost like a dance, step by step. 

The pacing of the show was something I never thought about. Brendon’s use of pacing helped build the show in the important parts and slow it down when it needed to be slower. There was light and shade, loud and quiet, all things I’d never given thought to. 

I had never used a script before. I now appreciate that it is one of the most important elements of a live show. I keep it in my bag and change bits after every show.

Using dramaturgy elevated the show from a series of impressive magic tricks to a theatrical presentation of magic. 

My current show Little Mysteries runs every Saturday night in The Grand Central Hotel in Glasgow. As well as writing and performing it, I also directed it. The show is limited to 15 people and is performed in a private suite upstairs. It was difficult to create ‘theatre’ in a room that size for only 15 people but I think I’ve done it without it being overstated.

What particular traditions and influences would you acknowledge on your work -  have any particular artists, or genres inspired you and do you see yourself within their tradition?
I’m very inspired by people who do things their own way and aren’t driven by money or fame. I have a real strict set of principles by which I live and work. I think it’s very important. When I see others who have become successful without selling their souls or signing their life away, it restores my faith in art.

Little Mysteries is inspired by magicians from the 1800s who performed close-up magic to smaller audiences. They used very few props and their performances were very understated but slick and memorable. Hopefully I’ve captured some of that with this show.

Do you have a particular process of making that you could describe - where it begins, how you develop it, and whether there is any collaboration in the process?
I usually start with a concept for a show. Then I think of the ending and work backwards from there. It’s what works best for me. I then spend months, in some cases years, playing around with ideas and trying them out on audiences at private engagements to see how they play. 
I only have a handful of people I collaborate with. People I trust. I’ll ask them for their opinion and then write, rewrite, perform, rewrite, perform until I feel it’s good enough to go in front of an audience. Even throughout my current show (we’re 21 shows into a year long run) I’m still tweaking and rewriting parts to make it better.

What do you feel the role of the audience is, in terms of making the meaning of your work?
The audience is the single most important thing. For me, magic is art. I try to give it context and the audiences give it meaning and hopefully they all take away with them something different from it. 

My shows are limited to 15 people per show so by the end of the
show, everyone has participated at some point. Because of the amount of audience participation, they play such an important part in whether the show is a great show or just ordinary. Some audiences are great and it makes the show come to life. There’s a buzz in that room. Other audiences are reserved and sit on their hands. They might still enjoy the show but if it you don’t feel as though you’re not getting anything back from them it can make the show quite flat. Luckily, that’s only happened once or twice and although I haven’t enjoyed those shows, the audience still loved them.

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