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Interpreting Magic by David Regal

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Interpreting Magic

David Regal
553pp, hardbacked, colour photo illustrated
Available from www.davidregal.com
Price: £60 + £36 P&P

David Regal is one of America’s most prolific and respected magic creators and performers. His first major publication, Approaching Magic (see a review in issue 23 November 2008), was over 500 pages of great magic and interesting thoughts, and now, 11 years later, the boy is back with another brilliant collection for you to enjoy.

One of the real strengths of David Regal’s magic is that he always manages to provide presentations and patter that are amusing and engaging. In a magic world where so many marketed effects are thrust upon the customer with little or no attention to how the ‘miracle’ is to be presented, David’s material is a real breath of fresh air because his book is full of routines that come with everything you need to make the magic itself entertaining.

The other factor that sets him apart from many others is that most of his effects are genuine routines. They are not just a moment of visual eye candy but properly constructed handlings that David has clearly worked on in great detail in order to offer the very best and most convincing methods possible. He doesn’t cut corners, he doesn’t cheat the reader, he puts down on the page those little details that if you follow them carefully will help you to produce some excellent magic.

One thing to note, is that David’s magic is not for the work-shy or the beginner. While he will always select the best option to achieve the effect (and not just provide clever methods for the sake of them), much of his output does require a certain amount of sleight of hand and magical confidence and competence. You may not be able to perform some of these routines the minute you read them, but give them the necessary practice and attention that they deserve, and you will be rewarded. 

The other observation that I would make regarding the magic content, is that most of the close up effects included are very much staged performance pieces. Much of the time they require a table top or close up pad to work on, and the routines themselves are also often too long to be what commercial close up magicians might be able to use. David performs regularly in the close up room at the Magic Castle and much of the material in this book reflects the favourable conditions afforded by that venue. This is not to decry the magic but more to alert you to where it might or might not be appropriate to use it.

In total there are 66 effects covering cards, general close up and stand up. There is quite a predominance of close up card material which consists of good variations on traditional themes and plots (assemblies, sandwich effects, predictions, monte, etc), but all with the Regal touch which often will simplify or smooth out unwanted bumps in the method. 

Although David resorts to some sleights (palms, well known counts and moves, etc), he is not averse to creating some interesting secret gimmicks too, an area where he shows particular ingenuity. In Glass And Gold, for instance, he has devised a simply brilliant little gizmo that enables you, in the cleanest manner possible, to make a borrowed ring vanish from a shot glass and then reappear again. The method is so cool and clever that you’ll chuckle all the way to finding the necessary bits and pieces to make it up.

The stand up/stage material will also require you to create quite a lot of custom made apparatus. Occasionally this will probably need to be done by a specialist (as is the case with the gimmicked bottle in his David’s Bottle effect), other times you’ll be able, with a little application and patience, to construct the necessary props yourself. Fortunately, the effort will always be rewarded by the effectiveness of the magic itself when you perform it, so give it a go.

If the book consisted only of the tricks, it would already be a ‘Must Buy’, but that is only one third of the book’s content. The second third consists of 34 transcribed interviews David has made with a line up of world famous magical luminaries. The list is gobsmackingly stellar! Jeff McBride, Derren Brown, Jim Steinmeyer, David Roth, Johnny Thompson, Teller, Juan Tamariz, David Williamson, Lance Burton, Andy Nyman, Max Maven, Gaeton Bloom, Eugene Burger and on and on. If you had to make a list of the world’s most celebrated and intelligent magical thinkers, you’d probably come up with most of the names on this list, so the quality is undeniable.

But are the interviews interesting? Well, if you enjoy any of the many interview audio podcasts available these days on the internet, or you like to wade through the lengthy articles on performers featured in, say, Genii Magazine, then you will lap this up. If you have a short attention span, or you simply don’t care how Lance Burton originally got interested in magic, then these may be sections that you fast forward through.

However, if you do that, you’ll not only miss some really interesting snippets about magicians who are way more successful than you and I, but you will also sidestep some sage bits of advice that slip out during the chats. Personally, I think David should have spread the interviews out a bit more throughout the book. They are long and text-dense and he has grouped them in batches of 3 or 4 interviews. Visually this creates large blocks of pages with nothing but small type on them and compared to the rest of the content, which is beautifully broken up by full colour photo illustrations, these parts present a bit of a visual challenge.

The final third of the book is my personal favourite. This consists of essays, personal reflections and stories on all manner of interesting magical topics. Some are quite esoteric but they are all thoughtfully put together and really inspire you to think more deeply about the subjects broached. 

So whether you want advice on staging magic, or are interested in hearing how a very young David Regal got to share a meal alone with Ed Marlo, or want his thoughts on methods or why he thinks not knowing what is going to happen in a trick is so important, or many other pearls of wisdom, you are going to like these. Each one is a quick read and pops up seemingly at random amongst the tricks and I loved them.

David Regal is one of my all time favourite magicians. He is intelligent with his magic, he is thoughtful, thorough, clever and both performs and writes very entertainingly. This wonderful book showcases everything that is great about David Regal, and unquestionably deserves a place on your bookshelf.

Review by Mark Leveridge. Originally published in Magicseen Magazine, issue 89