ROBERT Bone isn’t a magician he is a demonstrator of extra-sensory curiosities, so don’t expect him to pull a rabbit out of a hat - unless it’s a virtual bunny, and the hat is a figment of your imagination. By Catriona Reeves.
I KNOW that Robert Bone won’t mind being compared to master mentalist Derren Brown. After all, the quote on his poster and flyers is from the great man himself: “What a lovely chap”. Robert’s use of it is rather tongue-in-cheek - “He’s never seen me perform; we just had a chat at the stage door after one of his shows. But that was what he said to me, and it was too good an opportunity not to use it in my publicity!”
Derren, as always of course, is entirely right: Robert is indeed a lovely chap, both in his dapper three-piece stage suit, and in mufti as he chats about his new project, branching out from the performance of close-up magic at social functions with his first full-length stage show, which he performed for this first time to an audience at New Greenham Arts in early September.
Robert describes the process of preparing and rehearsing for the show as “like practising tightrope walking on a piece of rope lying on the ground, then suddenly trying to do it up in the air”.
“You have no idea who’s coming up on the stage, and the entire second half of the show involved lots of unpredictables, much of which I had never done before”. Not everything went exactly to plan, but overall the big picture came together.”
His preparation involved memorising the contents of books using image mnemonics, and learning to slow his pulse dramatically - verified during the show by a midwife in the audience.
As a self-styled “Demonstrator of Extra-Sensory Curiosities” - a moniker he took on two years ago to differentiate himself from more traditional conjurors - Robert’s performance is about much more than sleight of hand, and he will never use pure, simple trickery when a feat of memory, psychological reading and hypnotic suggestion will provide more gasp-inducing results.
“In rehearsals I had a ‘drop-everything’ idea which I had to include in the show, involving getting a volunteer to focus on a memory to get him in the right mood, then using Scrabble tiles to build up a picture. This replaced my original plan to use a ouija board, which could have been amazing, or fallen completely flat.”
Originally from the New Forest but now living in Brimpton, Robert’s interest in magic started 10 years ago when working as a mortgage advisor. Bored while on a residential training course, he began teaching himself card tricks. In 2006 he turned professional, rebranding himself in 2009 to shake off the magician’s usual dickie bow get-up - “although I only once got mistaken for the wine waiter” - and to focus more on his psychological skills, which had fascinated him since the earlier series of Big Brother, when psychologists used to decipher the housemates’ behaviour and body language.
Although Robert performs under his own name, it was the acquisition of a handmade three-piece suit that helped create his performing persona - affable and charming, yet also slightly quirky. “My girlfriend say it’s weird, that I do become someone else. It’s still me - but it’s a different part of me.
“I want to be remembered and talked about, whether it’s for going up to three people at the bar at a wedding, or on stage in front of 150 people. It’s not just about doing tricks, it’s about making an impact. It’s like what David Blaine did with his street magic - that was as much about his audiences’ reaction as the tricks themselves.”
Despite Robert’s unusual approach, he has the greatest respect for the traditions and history of magic, citing David Nixon and Paul Daniels as heroes if not direct influences. He also loves the work of Penn & Teller, and recommends Dynamo, who recently had a series on digital television channel Watch as the next big thing.
“My ambition is to get my own television series,” confesses Robert, whose television debut was live on BBC Three in 2008, as an act on a live talent show called Upstaged, which saw him perform for eight hours in a glass box in Millennium Square, Bristol. “It was an experience,” he laughs. “I had one day’s notice to prepare enough material, and it was February, so there were no passers-by!” He is hoping that his latest stint in front of the camera will lead to more success, as his recent Greenham show was filmed by a professional crew for an extended showreel and potential television pilot.
“Magic goes through peaks and troughs in terms of mainstream popularity, and it’s back on prime time right now. I think the trend will continue more towards the psychological stuff - mind reading and body language. Hopefully that will mean that there’s a place for me on TV!”
* To find out more about Robert Bone or to contact him, please send him a message through thought waves, or alternatively visit www.robertbone.co.uk
- First published in Out & About magazine, September 2011