Thursday, 21 July 2016

Mysterious Moments of Dramaturgy: John Henry Blackwood @ Edfringe 2016

C venues – C nova (Venue 145) ​
Aug 3-15, 17-29 7.30pm

Travel through time with mysterious moments from a memorable Victorian magician

In his brand new show, Victorian gentleman magician John Henry Blackwood returns with a series of magical experiments to explore the powerful potential of time travel. His signature tall tales, anecdotes and elegant magic culminate in an attempt to answer one of science’s biggest questions: is time travel possible?

Mysterious Moments of Magic is a show designed to rekindle the audience’s passion for the impossible, leaving them truly believing in time travel. John Henry Blackwood believes that magic is something that appeals to such a broad audience because it demonstrates that the world doesn’t always follow the rules, and that no matter how impossible something appears, there is always a way.

An Edinburgh resident, Blackwood brought two new shows to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2013 and 2014, with audiences packing out the venues to enjoy his charming, funny and often quirky show. This year, Blackwood aims to create an even more immersive experience styled with complexity, quality and, of course, showmanship.

What was the inspiration for this performance?
Time travel is something we’ve all dreamed about, being able to see ourselves in the future, or send messages to ourselves in the past. Unfortunately, it’s not possible.  

Magic is something that we all love in some way from a young age, and I believe the reason is because it takes reality and bends it, showing us that just because we think something is impossible, doesn’t make it so. 

So what better way to show of the wonder of the art of magic than to subvert reality and make time travel possible?

How did you go about gathering the team for it?
A one man show doesn’t need a huge team – so during the fringe it’s just me and my tech. But the development of this show has included some incredible magic minds and a fun theatre director for coaching.

The magic community is extremely open and welcoming, and I am very lucky to be a member of a group of Edinburgh based magicians that meet up once a week in a secret location (in the bar of a theatre just behind the Usher Hall), in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle, drink beer and share magic. I went to them with my show design and they have been brilliant in helping me refine each routine into something I’m extremely proud of.

I’m also lucky to have an ex-radio producer as an extremely close friend, so he’s going to run tech whilst I’m on stage.
How did you become interested in making performance?
I’ve loved magic since I was 6 years old, when I would sit in front of the TV and watch the Paul Daniels’ Magic Show. And so when I was old enough to actually perform tricks, I was doing so, much to the annoyance of every relative I could get to pay attention for 5 minutes.

I picked it up again at university and now I don’t go anywhere without a deck of cards and a sharpie. The idea of doing a designed public show came in 2012 after years of friends telling me to do it. I discovered the PBH FreeFringe and put my name down for it for 2013 and the rest is history.

Was your process typical of the way that you make a performance?
I have designed several shows over the years, all revolving around me being a Victorian Gentlemen who does magic. Two of these shows were at the Edinburgh Fringe as part of PBH’s FreeFringe. Which is a great initiative for new and seasoned performers to bring shows to Edinburgh and I am grateful to Peter and the team for doing it each year. However, it was apparent very early on that this was a show where I wanted control over the venue a little more, building a bigger and more immersive show.

My previous shows were built around my Victorian character and followed a more traditional magic show format of open big, tell some stories and build to close. There was some story with my character, but it wasn’t more than a personality. The routines themselves were taken from my existing repertoire. I’m extremely proud of the shows, but as my career has progressed I’ve wanted to go bigger.

This time around, I designed the concept of Mysterious Moments of Magic very early on and then had to design effects to fit around that concept. I had the finale to the show come to me the shower one night 18 months ago, and spent 6 months finding a way to make it happen.

The result is that this show is much more cohesive, and has more elements of story and performance pieces than my last two fringe shows.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?
From the start I wanted Mysterious Moments of Magic to leave people questioning the world around them.
As well as questioning the value of their time, and what is possible, what potential their lives have.
Magic is often presented on TV as a series of individual tricks, one after the other. Each trick demands attention, challenges the audience to work out how it’s down, and ultimately leaves people going wow. But magic can be more than wow.

Mysterious Moments of Magic will hopefully leave the audience astonished, but also invite them to think about what they accept as reality and what is possible.

The show also discusses how we value time, and what it means to us as well as what time travel might look like.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
Mysterious Moments of Magic is presented as a sales pitch for time travel, similar to those made by Tesla and Edison across the US and Europe during the late 19th century to convince people to adopt their respective types of electrical current.

This invites the audience to not only question what I’m showing them, but also the impact of it on their world.

I also worked heavily on the script to help build emotion into each routine, guiding the audience on a journey with me as we explore time travel as scientists.

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