Chapter 7: Leave the Arguments Backstage
Although it can be entertaining, and have comedic value, to have the audience take your side against the magician, remember that any on-stage tension must be an act. Even if you are partners off-stage, with all the inevitable irritations that that brings, leave those things backstage. This is especially the case when the act to be performed includes fire-eating, knife-throwing or the classic sawing-a-person-in-half routine.
A notable example is provided by the case of Magic Circle member, Joe Derbyshire, alias the Great Stupendo, and his assistant and partner, Ms Ava Kopowski. An argument had begun before the performance, of all things, about football. Audience members later testified that the couple had come on stage, ‘daggers drawn.’
The performance started well but deteriorated quickly. The couple were said to be sniping at each other throughout. One woman, interviewed later, said that she had heard Mr Derbyshire say that Ms Kopowski looked like a warthog in spangles. Ms Kopowksi retaliated by threatening to boil Mr Derbyshire’s bunny.
In court, the Judge heard that the sawing-in-half routine, had not been rehearsed recently and was not intended to form part of that evening’s performance, but the linked rings had been set about with bolt-croppers, and the doves had been plucked and drawn. With the audience already demanding a refund, Mr Derbyshire wheeled his apparatus on stage and, using bodily force, placed his assistant inside it.
The audience, used to the spectacular theatrics of master illusionists, assumed that the blood and screams were part of the act, and roared Mr Derbyshire’s efforts on. Fortunately for Ms Koposwki, the theatre’s sharp-eyed sound and lighting man, noticed her increasing pallor and raised the alarm. The amputation of her leg was completed later that evening under more hygienic conditions. At the time of writing, Mr Derbyshire remains under the care of the mental health services.
As an assistant, you are part of a team. There are extreme dangers in some illusions and trust is essential. Never go on stage in the heat of an argument. A baying audience can be a powerful influence, but remember that you are there to help manipulate them, not the other way around.