Magic of the illusionist

MAGIC:  Ilan Smith  is bringing his 'Imagine' show to the Fringe Theatre this week
MAGIC: Ilan Smith is bringing his 'Imagine' show to the Fringe Theatre this week

Performing magic tricks has become Ilan Smith's bread and butter, and he never had to use his BCom degree in marketing from the University of South Africa to earn his living.

I had had an interview with world renowned magician and illusionist Smith, who is taking his first stage production of magic tricks, Imagine, to the Fringe Theatre of the Johannesburg Theatre in Braamfontein from Wednesday until March 4.

Holding a pencil in one hand and the coin in the other, he drilled a hole with a pencil right in the middle of the coin (at least that is what appeared to have happened if my eyes did not fail me, and they often don't).

The pencil was firmly stuck in the hole .

"Now you can take this with you," he said. I hesitated, but then realised I needed evidence of a magical performance I had just witnessed.

I was quite amused by what Smith had done, but still not convinced that something scientifically had happened, as there was no science theory that would back up what he did.

I have never interviewed a magician before, and to this Smith said: "The power of magic does not exist in the secrecy of the tricks, but in the psychological effect the performance has on the audience right at that moment, the illusion created.

"Even if you are told how it is done, you will not remember a thing, in say three months."

He also explained that although professional magic entertainers are few in the country, the "art and science" of magic performance is certainly growing. He said magicians often meet in groups to plan and craft new concepts.

"Yes there is always that fear that some of the magicians might steal the ideas from you. But you see, we only meet among the trusted ones, and the meetings are closed," he explained.

Sensing that I may not have been convinced by the pencil and coin trick, he offered to do another one.

He took out a R20 note from his wallet, f olding it three times, and w ithin seconds it changed to a plain white paper. "It has become what it is worth and printed on, a piece of paper," he said, before performing a reverse process that seemed to restore it into a R20 note.

"The whole thing is about body language, the power of psychological effect and what is called misdirection," he seemed to boast.

"This is the first time that I am doing a theatre production of magic performance. All my shows, until now, were confined to corporate performances at team buildings and product launches.

"I have performed magic from the age of eight, first for children and later exclusively for adults. With my first pay cheque, which I earned performing on the streets, I bought a book of magic performances. That is how it all began."