The mag­i­cal world of Pete Fir­man

The Wokingham Paper - - LEISURE -

IN the packed mod­ern field of magic acts, Pete Fir­man cer­tainly stands out. He’s re­cently ap­peared on the leg­endary stage of The Lon­don Pal­la­dium, han­dled some props that be­longed to his com­edy-magic hero in ITV doc­u­men­tary Tommy Cooper For­ever, and even ex­er­cised his vo­cal cords dur­ing a song and dance rou­tine for Comic Relief. Is there no end to the man’s tal­ents?

As he pre­pares to launch his new live show, Mar­vels, upon an un­sus­pect­ing pub­lic, Pete will prom­ise one thing: he’s not go­ing to be ham­mer­ing nails or thread­ing nee­dles into his body.

“I used to en­joy do­ing those things and I’ve got a soft spot for that kind of ma­te­rial as it would al­ways guar­an­tee a re­ac­tion.

“You can’t watch some­one hit­ting a nail into their face pas­sively. You’re def­i­nitely en­gaged whether it be dis­gusted or en­tranced.”

For the best part of two decades, Pete Fir­man has cer­tainly been en­gag­ing au­di­ences with his brand of magic and com­edy with one-word live shows such as Hokum, Hood­winker, Scoundrel and Trick­ster, as well as TV ap­pear­ances on the likes of Chan­nel 5’s Mon­key Magic, BBC’s The Ma­gi­cians and ITV’s Tonight at the Lon­don Pal­la­dium.

He’s also pub­lished a best-sell­ing book, Tricks To Freak Out Your Friends.

With Mar­vels, he’s aim­ing to amaze and en­thral crowds across the coun­try with an art­form which never ceases to cap­ti­vate de­spite its age.

“What does magic mean in 2018?” Pete won­ders. “100 years ago, ma­gi­cians were rock ‘n’ roll stars but there’s not a lot that’s left undis­cov­ered in the world now. Maybe that’s one of the rea­sons why the magic show is a pop­u­lar form of en­ter­tain­ment be­cause it’s a rar­ity for an au­di­ence to be bam­boo­zled.

“I wouldn’t say that Google has ru­ined magic but if some­one is per­sis­tent enough they could prob­a­bly find out how a trick works. These are the kind of things that a 21st cen­tury ma­gi­cian has to deal with.”

While David Blaine might avoid any el­e­ments of com­edy in his act, most mod­ern ma­gi­cians re­alise that a wellde­liv­ered spot of ban­ter goes down well with an au­di­ence al­ready reel­ing from be­ing as­ton­ished. Pete ac­knowl­edges that a mas­ter such as Tommy Cooper could never be em­u­lated, but that shouldn’t stop him from in­sert­ing some good gags into his show.

“I’m try­ing to do good tricks and make it as funny as I can. I’m not do­ing a trick and then do­ing five min­utes of stand-up about air­plane food; the jokes are in­ter­wo­ven and in­te­grated into what­ever it is that I’m do­ing. You can get a lot of mileage out of that trope of bor­row­ing a gen­tle­man’s watch and smash­ing it up but where it ends up right in the end. Not only is that a good trick, it’s a funny sit­u­a­tion that you can cre­ate with some­one.”

Should you find your­self up on stage dur­ing Pete’s Mar­vels tour, don’t worry about your time­piece not mak­ing it back home with you, and please don’t be of­fended if he can’t keep hold of your name in his head. He has a lot go­ing on in there dur­ing show­time. “I have a ter­ri­ble mem­ory.

“My big­gest faux pas in per­form­ing is for­get­ting peo­ple’s names and it’s re­ally the worst thing that you can for­get be­cause peo­ple do take umbrage when you call a ‘Barry’ ‘Garry’ or some­thing like that. Do­ing magic is a lit­tle bit like pat­ting your head and rub­bing your belly: you’re do­ing dif­fer­ent things at dif­fer­ent times and I just have a prob­lem with re­mem­ber­ing names.”

Not that this sort of thing is ever likely to put an ex­pe­ri­enced per­former like Pete Fir­man on edge. In­deed he agrees that an overly anx­ious ma­gi­cian is likely to be a not-very-good ma­gi­cian.

He said: “You want a cer­tain level of ner­vous­ness be­cause that gets you up and gets you go­ing. If you didn’t have that it would mean you’re not both­ered and you should prob­a­bly stop do­ing it.”

As his loyal fan­base con­tin­ues to carry him through, he hopes to pick up some new fol­low­ers with his Mar­vels tour, even if they come in through the side en­trance. “There was ac­tu­ally a con­ver­sa­tion had about whether some comics fans might come along by ac­ci­dent.

“But we thought it would prob­a­bly be al­right, and if we sold a few ex­tra tick­ets be­cause of the Marvel uni­verse, then is that a bad thing?”

Pete Fir­man’s Mar­vels is at South Street Arts Cen­tre in Read­ing tonight. For more de­tails, call the box of­fice on 0118 960 6060 or log on to www. readin­

For more on Pete, log on to www. pe­te­fir­

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