Two weeks ago, the Eton College Magical Society presented The Beauty of Magic in the Farrer Theatre. Split into two acts, the show was filled with tricks ranging from loud and bombastic Las Vegas-style performances, to traditional and extremely technical magic.
In the 1980s, Eton used to hold an annual magic show. After a considerable hiatus, the tradition returned for one night only. The anticipation was evident from a very full auditorium, and even before the house lights dimmed and the stage was lit, there was a growing atmosphere as audience members of all ages settled into their seats.
It was by no means a sedentary experience for the audience! In fact, the show began with a trick getting all of the audience onto their feet. They were all asked to take five cards and rip them, pocketing half a card. After a combination of shuffles and throws, everyone found to their amazement that the final half a card that remained matched the one they one they had pocketed perfectly. 48 decks of cards were used in total, and 5,184 halves of playing cards wound up on the auditorium floor by the end of the trick!
Next, AJ and Alban gave a technical masterclass. Alban performed a logic defying ‘three card monte’ before they demonstrated the famous ‘cups and balls’ twice. Once with traditional metal glasses, then the next time with clear plastic cups, revealing some secrets but remaining equally impressive!
Perhaps it would have been easy to stage a show demonstrating the same style of trick. Yet there was great variety in the tricks performed, so no one knew what to expect next. One moment, an audience member’s predicted card was stabbed mid-air with an umbrella, the next, a silent performer managed to get a tissue to burst into flames, then form hundreds of pieces of confetti which flew into the air.
The end of the first act fooled the audience. Two magicians gave us the impression they had gotten the trick wrong and predicted the wrong card. Then, the lights cut out and a single beam of light revealed that the supposedly ‘wrong’ prediction in fact glowed to show the two of diamonds, the correct card.
The magic continued during the interval, as three magicians roamed around with packs of cards performing close-up tricks, making coins teleport from underneath cards and finding them in a variety of places. The words “pick a card, any card” were heard echoing across over the theatre.
The second act was equally impressive, bringing variety and excitement to the stage. Balloons were swallowed, predictions were made in locked boxes and revealed to be correct and, like the first act, gasps and applause emanated from an awestruck audience.
For the final trick, the Head Master was invited on stage. During the interval audience members had been asked to write the names of different fruits on slips of paper, which were put into a cardboard box. The Head Master chose a slip of paper and memorised the fruit, which turned out to be ‘cherry’, whilst other magicians went into the audience and asked people to mix up Rubik’s cubes. Once they were all completely randomised, they were inserted into a grid and somehow, the back of the Rubik’s cubes displayed a cherry!
The audience was animated as they left the Farrer Theatre. MC of the show and Keeper of the Magical Society, Harry B, said that he hoped that this performance would inspire more to take up magic. We certainly hope this fantastic show will return as an annual tradition at Eton.