It is ALL about the Focal Point.

Nico blueIn my last blog I made some general observations about focus and how it can be applied to the writing, performance and general presentation of magic shows. I had some great feedback from magicians in what I had to say on this topic. Let’s take it a stage further…

In this blog post I want to discuss a very specific application of my general thesis of the importance of focus to a performing magician. In particular I am going to focus on the strictly visual aspect of this matter. I will do this by concentrating on one effect and then give a more general indication of how these theories can improve any magician’s performance.

To be specific, I want to go into a little more detail about the term ‘Focal Point.’ I have touched on this topic before and consider it a very important area for a magician to concentrate on. My first introduction to this term came from the amazingly wise English magician Ken Brooke. It arose while he was teaching me his version of the Linking Rings. Although I did not realize it at the time, what I was really learning in Ken’s studio was his version of Dai Vernon’s ‘Symphony of the Rings’ with one or two interesting variations. In the context of this article let me zero in on just a couple of these changes.

At the time, like most magicians, I felt that the Linking Rings was not fully completed until you unlinked the set of rings at the end of the routine ta7259and displayed them separately after the various linked formations. It seemed orderly, logical and had a nice sense of symmetry. However, Ken ended his version of the classic by going from the chain of six to spinning five rings on just one ring. He felt that anything beyond that was anti-climatic to a lay audience. A very specific form of focus was inherent in this decision, along with the choice to use six rings instead of the (at the time) much more common choice of eight rings. These two factors made it easier for the audience to focus on the core effect of taking separate rings and linking them together.

Along the journey in Ken’s tutoring he placed a great deal of emphasis on where the audiences’ attention and visual focus was during the routine. The exact spot where the action supposedly took place was the area that Ken called the focal point. I have always kept his teachings in the back of my mind and looked for other areas where they could be beneficially applied. Remember a human being can only look in a limited area of a specific place at any one moment.

It is easy for a lay audience to see the various manipulations of the rings as a blur of action and somewhat closer to juggling than individual feats of magic creating a unified chain of events that build on each other. When you slow down the action and have a spectator hold one side of a ring while you concentrate on the upper section and perform a ‘crash through’ link, you really punch home the key effect.

Ken BAs a stand-up comedy magician I have gone to great lengths to try and be very aware of where the audience’s attention is while I try and juggle the dual disciplines of letting them see the magic I am doing without loosing the benefits of looking at my face as I present the comedy. Verbal comedy is stronger when the audience sees your facial expressions as you say the lines. It causes them to focus on what you are saying and the words you are using.

Sometimes you can dramatically improve the reaction to what you are doing magically just by moving the important actions closer to your face. In TV terms blocking the action in terms of a close up shot and raising your hands from performing their movements somewhere between the middle of your chest and your jaw line. Sometimes you want to raise the action even higher.

What makes the ‘Gypsy Thread’ such a powerful effect is the moment when you raise the broken pieces to your mouth and blow on the bundle as they gracefully restore into one length. The audience knows exactly where to look and can be influenced in their reaction by your facial expression.It is this kind of attention to the ‘Focal Point’ that allows me to perform smaller magic to large audiences with very great effect. When you want to open up the ‘Visual Theatre’ then it becomes a definite statement and adds nicely to the variety and texture of your performance.

For those especially interested a full scale explanation of my thoughts on this topic are contained in my ‘Ultimate Linking Finger Ring’ routine and my DVD ‘20210s,’ if you wish to explore these ideas more thoroughly than is practical in this short column.

~ by Nick Lewin on March 13, 2014.

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