Sunday, July 15, 2012

Fingers of fun - interview with Stuart MacLeod (magicians Barry & Stuart)

SPRIGHTLY Scottish magicians Barry & Stuart, the hosts of the BBC show The Magicians, are returning to Newbury for a date at The Corn Exchange during Newbury Comedy Festival, with a show that would probably get them kicked out of the Magic Circle... if they were members.

STUART MACLEOD explained to CATRIONA REEVES why they are breaking down the fourth wall and letting the audience peek behind their brand of dark and gory magic.

CATRIONA REEVES: You’re bringing your Show & Tell to Newbury Comedy Festival - what’s the idea behind it?

STUART MACLEOD: In the first half of the show, we perform a variety of our favourite tricks and some new ones that we’ve been working on over the past year. Then, after the interval, we reveal exactly how we’ve done each trick. The audience have a choice to stay, or leave if they don’t want to know the secrets behind it.

CR: Have many audience members chosen not to stay for the second half?

SM: We don’t think there’s been many, but we have had comments from various house managers that a few people have left, saying that they’ve enjoyed what they’ve seen, but they don’t want to have the mystery spoilt. There’s often a childlike wonder and astonishment about magic, and not everyone wants to lose that.

It was a brave, and probably stupid decision to go ahead with the show, and it was a tough one to write, but how magic works is fascinating, and we wanted to let people in on the secret.

CR: How is the show going down with other magicians?

SM: A lot are really annoyed - many think that the secrets shouldn’t be revealed, so we’ve had a lot of emails. The Magic Circle has a rule that the secrets of magic shouldn’t be revealed, but we’re not members, so they can’t kick us out.

CR: Does doing the show this way present more challenges than usual?

SM: Actually, it means that if something goes wrong with a trick and we have to improvise, it means that in the second half we can explain what happened and how we dealt with it.

The hardest thing was deciding what tricks to include. There are some really great tricks in there, such as turning water into wine. It took us six years to come up with that, and we performed it on television in front of 6m people, so we were a bit reluctant to give that secret away.

On the other hand, the first half ends with an excellent new trick which we’re really pleased with, and again we had a dilemma about revealing that one.

Basically, we came up with a set of rules that we wanted to genuinely show exactly what was going on, and then there was a lot of cajoling of each other to put a really good range of stuff in there.

CR: It sounds like you should be writing a book on the back of this...

SM: There’s a lot of stuff in the show involving mobile phones and suchlike, so we’ve decided that it would work better on the internet than in the book, so we’re currently working on a website, which is where this should all end up.

We’re also working on a couple of TV  pilots at the moment - we’re not going to Edinburgh this year, because we’re devoting time to them.

CR: You and Barry (Jones) are rather like the Ant & Dec of the magic world - do you think you’ll ever work separately, or are you better together?

SM: We’ve been working together for just over 10 years, and we’ve discovered that there’s something about our writing process that means we need each other. We’re two cogs in a wheel that work best together, and we spark off each other. I don’t think we’ll ever work apart.

  • First published in Newbury Weekly News on Thursday, July 5, 2012

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