A new club in Chepstow is just magic, as NATHAN BRIANT discovered.
MAGIC is being spread around Chepstow by a newly-formed group who are determined to show people their tricks.
The Magicians of Chepstow’s chairman and co-founder, Marc Hay, 20, started learning magic when he was 12 and had just started at the town’s secondary school. He took his inspiration from tricks he saw on the internet and on television and was quick to build up an impressive array of them to show to friends.
He said: “I saw it on TV and learnt a few basic tricks. I took them to school and baffled people with some decent ones. I just enjoyed amazing people. I thought: I’ve got to get into this more.”
But for those people who might think learning tricks is time consuming and would take some time to make them look convincing, he said there is an easy way to learn the most basic tricks and quickly build them up to impress.
"There’s different levels of difficulty. Some tricks are quite easy; then you get other tricks which are a bit more difficult and involved sleight of hand and direction.
“I specialise in close up magic - mostly things like cards, coins. I can make cards appear face up in the pack; I like to do magic where I can pull and a card and it’ll be the wrong card in their hand, I snap my fingers and it’ll turn into their card in their hand.”
How on earth can he do that? He laughs. “With a lot of practice. With cards, you can pick up within a few months and get it down. But I believe there’s a difference in knowing how a trick is done and performing the trick.
“You can learn the method of a trick probably straight away by watching a DVD and understanding how a trick works. But to actually perform it you have to work at it. You can get books - but I don’t use them because I’m more of a visual learner. I like to learn them from a workshop or DVDs because then I can copy along then.”
But he’s only been doing it as a career, with hours of practice, for a couple of years. When faced with what to do with leaving school, he decided a magic path was one he wanted to tread, just to see how it would pan out.
He added: “You can get books - but I don’t use them because I’m more of a visual learner. I like to learn them from a workshop or DVDs because then I can copy along then.”
The Magicians of Chepstow group largely operates through Facebook and came about when three entertainers found each other. Marc is one of three founding members of the group, along with Arnold Paul - or Arnold de Paul to use his stage name - and Ric Seaton.
But the group didn’t start with a huge bang, it would be fair to say.
Marc said: “We met up just for a few weeks and then it kind of died out. We didn’t really have enough of us. I took the group further by pushing to get more people included. We’ve around about eight now. We’ve a lot of interest with people coming.”
The group started to meet at a number of pubs in Chepstow. Now they have made the Coach and Horses Inn on Welsh Street their informal base for meetings because they enjoyed the atmosphere and book a room so they can perform tricks in front of each other. But often the showmen can’t keep their talents private - and go out to impress the people in the pub before their night there is over.
Last month the group put on a variety night, their first big show, at the Severn Bridge Club in Bulwark, attracting performers from Gwent and beyond and about 100 magic fans. And Marc hopes the expanse of talent in the group means more shows will be held in the future.
And the members have a variety of different talents - one of the newer members is an advanced balloon modeller; Arnold, 62, is a children’s entertainer too. But he took up magic relatively late in life after giving up his job at a brewery that he had held for 30 years to dedicate himself to the art full time.
But the group’s chairman thinks that he improves every time he performs a trick. Marc said: “Every performance is a practice but I also try to learn new things to keep it fresh. I like to learn new things and new tricks just to expand it as much as I can.”
“I’m trying to learn some stage stuff as well. I learned some stuff stage at the variety night and used bigger props. I was using parasols - so I did an umbrella routine with those. That took me about three weeks to perfect it. I knew how to do it but didn’t know how to make an act. But I put it to music in about three weeks.”
And, like any practical job, Marc tries to ensure he’s up to date with tricks and works at his skill.
“I like to do at least an hour a day. But some days I’ll spend all day doing it. If I get something new, I like to master it.”
Does not that get frustrating if you get it wrong? “Yes, but I like to think how watching the trailer made me feel and how impressive it was. I’ve got to keep learning otherwise I’ll never be able to do it. I always try to think of the end result.”
Of course, he has a favourite trick. He thinks about a few but settles on one: “It’s probably a trick I do with a five pound note or a ten pound note. I have the five pound note; they have the ten pound note. We both fold them up into a quarter and I put them both in their hand; they think of one of the notes; they take the note they’re thinking of. They then hold onto the ten pound note and I’ve got the five pound note. Then I give the five pound note a wave and then they actually swap places. So I’ve got the note that was in their hand.
“I think it’s called five and ten pound note transportation. It’s one of the things I learned about a year ago but it just got such good reactions I just kept it. I always get asked to do it.”
For more information on the Magicians of Chepstow group, visit their Facebook page at facebook.com/_chepstowmagicians and for Marc’s own page visit facebook.com/magicmarchay.