Pete Firman brings magic and comedy to Worthing
Recognised as one of the UK's leading comedian-magicians, reckons there might just be a reason we all are hooked on magic.
“Without wanting to go too deep, you look around our world and there is very little that is left undiscovered. We know everything about everything. You can ask anything on the internet and you can get an answer, so when someone is doing something amazing and apparently impossible on stage, people find it appealing. You get a sense of the unknown, how can it be happening.”
Sadly, there is no noise for it, Pete jokes. If you are funny, people will laugh. If you offer magic, sadly you won’t hear the silence and the slack jaws! “But a magic show is actually a bit like a play. You have got someone on stage pretending to be something and to do something, and you buy into that. You have got the suspension of disbelief. But I do try to give much more credence to everything I do. I borrow things from the audience and do amazing things with them. If you borrow a shoe or something from a member of the audience and do amazing things with it, then the people will be thinking ‘That’s not his prop! How did he do that!’ It gives a lot more credibility to whatever is happening. I really dislike the kind of magic that comes with huge bits of paraphernalia, a big sparkly box that you put a girl in and shove swords in… That’s not my style. I think that’s all a bit meaningless.”
Pete concedes, though, on stage, you need the scale: “The show that I have put together is a real mixed bag, with some of the smaller stuff, but we have also got audio-visual screens so there is the larger stuff. I will make a lady float on stage, no paraphernalia, bare stage, away from the curtains… a lady floating in the air over the stage…”
Part of the attraction is that it is all live: “I have been lucky enough to do TV, but TV is a bit of a weird field for magic because audiences are quite sceptical. It is very easy to watch magic on TV and say that the tricks have been edited for the camera. You can’t say that about tricks on stage. In a way, stand-up comedy is the same. It works better on stage, and magic is the same.”
Pete’s trademark is to combine it with comedy. Pete’s point that that comedy and magic are natural bedfellow: “A magic trick is very much like a joke. There is a set-up which sets up the circumstances of something, and then you get the pay-off which comes as a surprise, and that’s basically how a joke works. They are the same. If someone is laughing, they are relaxed. A laugh by its very nature is relaxation. If someone laughs, maybe their attention and focus are down… You can get away with more. But the main thing is to get away from the ‘look how clever I am’ syndrome. I think if you take yourself too seriously as a magician, the audience just don’t like it. I don’t have anyone in mind particularly when I say that, but I just think it is a character trait that is to be avoided for a magician, so in that respect the comedy is good.”
The new show is called TriX: the ambition is “to do the funniest, most amazing show I can” – in other words, the usual ambition: “It’s new material. I am a stalwart of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. I love to chuck everything out and come up with something new every year. It’s a pressure… but not a massive pressure! There are a lot of people doing much more important things than this!”
Pete plays Worthing's Connaught Studio on October 8 at 7.30pm.