The Great Magician (Part 2)


And so the long awaited night arrived and my family trooped off to see the Great Magician reveal the Secrets of the Cosmos. In retrospect it seems appropriate somehow that the Great Magician appeared at the venerable Her Majesty’s Theatre, rather than in some modern, Futuristic style venue, for despite his advertising hype, the Great Magician proved to be not some super-evolved Avatar of the Mystic Future but an atavistic throwback to a Vaudevillian Past.

Ah Her Majesties Theatre! A beloved Brisbane institution since 1888, with it’s Italianate facade and plush foyer. It had played host to Opera stars like Anna Pavlova and two bit vaudeville hoofers no one now remembers. Later, Marcel Marceau, and even Black Sabbath performed there in the Seventies (I have the mono cassette tape to prove it!) and even the the controversial, once-banned, Tribal Rock Musical “HAIR” had been staged there. (Actually, my Father took me to see HAIR too, around ’72 when I was about 14 or so. Yeah, he was alright, my Dad.)

The Great Magician bounced onto the stage dressed in the traditional livery of the stage magician, complete with tuxedo & tails. He was not a tall man and hid his paunch behind a brightly coloured cummerbund. Rubbing his hands together briskly he launched into his Patter.

Indeed, it was through the Power of his Patter, rather than through any Mental Powers, that most of his “Magic” was wrought that night. It was with his Patter that he sought to cajole and persuade, mould and explain, direct and brush over any doubt or disbelief we might have had as to the actual awesomeness of the awesome powers we were witnessing.

He ran though his routine. I have forgotten much of his Act in the passing years, but I do recall an assistant firing a gun at the blindfolded magician, who then “caught the bullet with his teeth”. Selected audience members were invited up to carefully examine the gun and bullet to ensure there was no trickery.

Subsequently, I seem to recall there was a “Guess what’s in the audience members’ pockets” segment which went on for a bit, and then some business about picking the Jack of Hearts out of a deck of cards.

Once again there was the solemn ritual of audience members checking the deck for signs of cheating.

Meanwhile the audience expectations were subsiding all around me. Yes, I could feel the Belief Barometer slowly sinking as the Group Mind came to the reluctant conclusion that no Cosmic Mysteries were to be revealed that night. The best we could hope for was to be entertained. And even that was looking like a long shot.

Alas, the Great Magician was turning out not to be a space age prophet but a carny stage magician in the old vaudevillian tradition. And not a particularly good stage magician at that, but he did have enough Imagination to try to tap into the Spirit of the Aquarian Age and reinvent himself.

The Great Magician in fact reminded me of nothing so much as the shabby, wandering players of Mark Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn“, which I’d just read that Summer. More Conmen than Actors, the troupe would arrive in a new town and announce they would put on the Greatest Performance ever! Lurid posters would make ludicrous promises of an unforgettable cultural experience.

Half the town would turn up and pay their money on opening night, only to be presented with a abject piece of what today might be described as “performance art”.

Enraged the audience became a Mob demanding it’s money back and threatening to lynch the perpetrators of this early example of “false advertising“.

But, possessing the “Gift of the Gab”, the actors would then persuade them how funny it would be to tell all their friends what a wonderful performance they’d seen and what a great joke it would be to encourage those friends to attend the dismal display.

Thus the second night would duly sell out as well. The third night the crowd would be the largest yet, though many of them were carrying pitch-forks and rope. No matter, for the Dodgy Actors had quietly decamped at Dawn and were already putting up posters in a new town, many miles down the road.

I started to wonder if the Great Magician had an exit strategy also.

Back in my time line, our Magus had reached the Watch Fixing part of the show.

Gathering his Powers he entreated the audience to focus their minds on the goal that any non-functioning timepieces in the vicinity might be set functioning. He then called for people with now working clocks to come forward.

Immediately a number of people stood up and headed purposefully towards the stage to testify, lead by an enormous, theatrical-looking Fat Woman. Wearing many bangles and rings she was enveloped in the kind of tent-like garment that fat women wore back in the Seventies.

After several convincing testimonies were delivered we then moved swiftly to the Climax of the Performance, such as it was; the summoning and manifestation of the Theatre’s resident Ghost.

The ghost had been the subject of much local speculation over the years. True, there was not much in the way of consensus as to why the ghost was there, or even as to whether it was the ghost of a man or a woman. But all agreed that a Building that old and interesting should have a ghost and so it must be there.

A chair was placed onstage for the Ghost to sit on and all lights were extinguished except for a single spotlight on the chair.The Great Magician’s voice dropped to a suitably dramatic level as he started coaxing the invisible ghost to manifest. After a bit he started speaking more excitedly, muttering things like, “Yes..yes.. I can hear you!”

“The light’s too bright for the spirit,”he informed us, then he called up to the lighting stage-hand.”Can you dim the lights?”

“Yes, a little lower.. a bit more.. I can feel the Presence is getting stronger.. he’s almost here..yes..yes, take the lights right down for a moment..” By this point we had been plunged into near total darkness, and in that moment of darkness you could hear quite audibly the sound of a wooden chair being scrapped across the stage!

“Raise the lights,” cried the magician, and behold we saw quite clearly that the chair had been moved. Unfortunately there was a slight timing problem with the lights, and we also had seen the Great Magician quickly hopping back into place away from the chair that he’d obviously just given a shove.

…”Ladies and gentlemen this is truly amazing. What we’ve witnessed here tonight..” the Magician hurriedly assured us, but it was too late. He’d lost them now. The Patter had lost it’s Magic. People were starting to get to their feet and go, muttering crankily and making that “tsk”ing sound with their teeth and tongue.

Later that night we sat on the verandah at home, drinking cups of tea and watching the lightning behind Mt Cootha fitfully illuminate the great, banked masses of cloud.

“Well.. “, my Father said at last, drawing on a Hi-Tar, non-filter Camel cigarette, “He wasn’t very good”.

“No”, I said, “He wasn’t”.

And we both laughed.

Post scriptum; A couple of days after the performance the Great Magician approached my Father. He was doing a show at the Gold Coast, and offered dear Papa free tickets and money for “travel expenses” so we could attend his show and of course, troop onto the stage wildly waving ticking time-pieces at the appropriate moment.

My Dad turned him down and I missed my chance to be a showbiz shill. And though he never said so, I knew he felt disappointed that the Great Magician had revealed himself to be such a total fraud.

For Part 1 of “The Great Magician” go to




The Reverend Hellfire is a practised Performance Poet,

President of the Kurilpa Institute of Creativity Inc.,

and an Ordained Minister of the Church of Spiritual Humanism

AND the Church of the Universe.

What’s your excuse?



~ by reverendhellfire on February 25, 2018.

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