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Mind games and 'Muggles' as South Tyneside magic festival vanishes for another year

South Tyneside's annual celebration of magic ended with a flourish at the weekend. David Whetstone was at the final International Gala Show at the Customs House

Photo credit: Craig Leng Photography The Evasons who appeared at South Tyneside International Magic Festival
The Evasons who appeared at South Tyneside International Magic Festival

Unless I’m much mistaken, there will be a few hundred people like me still wondering: How on earth did she do that?

The apparent mind-reading ability of Tessa Evason of The Evasons prompted a standing ovation to conclude this final South Tyneside International Magic Festival in style.

The festival is a good-hearted affair, with workshops, school visits and the public shows bringing more than a little magic to lives across the region.

Supposedly, more than 150 magicians flew in for the weekend’s convention.

A fair few of them were at the Customs House on Saturday with the audience divided by comedian and compere John Archer into seen-it-all “Comedians” and “Muggles” – those with no magic savvy who had come simply to be entertained and amazed.

A little lad called Jack Smith was made a star for the night by Teessider Archer, who has a very nice way with a crowd.

Morgan and West, who style themselves Victorian travelling magicians and dress and speak accordingly, kicked things off with what looked to me like well time-travelled card and tissue-under-cup (or is it?) tricks and some amiable banter.

“We have now, for your delight and delectation, a new trick,” they announced. Since the Morgan and West act is largely about presentation, I can remember the announcement but not the trick.

Then came Handsome Jack, introduced as “the Brad Pitt of Hollywood”. He ain’t. In fact, I believe Brad Pitt is the Brad Pitt of Hollywood and this shiny-pated and cheeky American offers no serious competition – except, of course, in the field of magic.

My son, aged 15, liked Handsome Jack best, largely because in a jokey demonstration of a sleight-of-hand trick he dropped his trousers to reveal a preposterous gaiters-and-levers affair. Ignore a magician’s hands, he was telling us – the real trickery is happening between thigh and calf.

He also, having chosen his audience volunteer with some care, managed to make a card secreted down the front of a blouse appear from his trousers.

It was done, as the late Kenny Everett might have said, in the best possible taste.

Guy Barrett & Co then took the stage with the broadest of smiles and a good old fashioned dicing-people-up-in-a-box routine.

Illusionist Guy and his two “glamorous assistants”, as they would doubtless have been described on Saturday night TV in the Seventies, smiled and postured, postured and smiled as they were variously “dismembered” inside the magic box on wheels.

I’ve seen this done before and I still don’t know how it works. But my jaw will really only drop when the box opens and human body parts tumble out. Call me a weary cynic...

The second half brought Stephanie Delvaine to the stage, or rather her skin-tight white costume and hula hoops. The disco lighting effect meant Stephanie was an imagined presence among the dancing, spinning white circles, a kind of human void.

It was pretty to watch and a visual warm-up for what was to follow, the amazing Evasons, Tessa and Jeff, he American and she born in Britain but brought up in Canada. We learned a lot about them during their long routine – but not nearly as much as they learned about us.

She puts on a blindfold – tested first by an audience member – and reveals things about people who produce treasured objects, supposedly reading their minds as they focus on the proffered item.

A young woman came to the front. Tessa, blindfolded, told her she was called Lesley and was holding a prescribed inhaler. Her doctor was called Dr Baines. Right on every count.

Tessa was able to deduce from Michelle’s offered ring that it had a heart on it and was given to her by her son, Luke.

Spot on again.

Pauline produced a diary. Tessa slipped up in suggesting she was called Maureen but got it right second time and then correctly informed her which particular date she was looking at and that her diary entry for that day concerned a man called Robert.

She correctly gave – you can hardly say guessed – a young man’s name and birthday from his driving licence, which she couldn’t see, and to cap it all asked someone to produce any banknote.

When she told the woman she had a tenner in her hand and then read out its serial number, its owner was overcome: “Oh, my god, yes!”

I was looking for the trick, the device.

I was watching the husband, whose frenetic search for suitable objects in the audience contrasted with Tessa’s serene on-stage presence.

Towards the end Tessa did produce some sort of magic pendulum and said she had a few for sale after the show but I guess this was a little money-making distraction. I’m not easily amazed but I was amazed.

There must be a trick... otherwise this woman wouldn’t be doing magic shows in South Shields (sorry, folks), she’d be working for governments. But for the life of me I couldn’t fathom it. Cue that standing ovation.

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