“If you are not willing to learn, no one can help you. If you are determined to learn no one can stop you.”Zig Ziglar
Finally after waiting six months I made it to Sweden to visit Tom for the whole month of August, yippee!
It wasn’t long before I was fully immersed in the world of Magic. Thankfully Tom loves magic just as much as I do! So the day after I arrived I got to work by attending his practical course for Magicians, Upgrade 2020!
A course for those whom have not already taken one of his courses. But also for those wishing to both refresh and explore new topics.
A special ingredient and it’s not Norwegian Salty Liquorice!
The environment you learn in is key to development.
The workshop took place at the Burnt Out Punks Hanger (probably one of the coolest spaces I’ve workshopped in). A theatre space for the famous Swedish punk circus group obsessed with all things pyro. When we participate in performance training whether that be dance, theatre, music or magic creativity should flow. And this happened in this workshop because the space was one we all felt comfortable in – a theatre. Theatres are the place where most of us will end up performing our creations. It is a safe space to try out new things. To both succeed and fail. So selecting the perfect venue for a workshop is magic!
This crew of misfit magicians, eleven Swedes and I, decided that it was well time this year for us all to get together to share and develop our skills in misdirection further. However working during a pandemic provided some extra hardships.
In the end everyone was very considerate of each other in terms of keeping safe distances during the process. The large open hanger space provided us with room to work and hand sanitiser was never far away.
As if learning misdirection skills wasn’t hard enough!
One of the biggest challenges for me in this workshop was the fact the course was taught in Swedish. I am learning the language however I am no where near as fluent as I should or want to be.
Which meant trying to decipher everything that was discussed and then apply it was a challenge. But I do recommend it. Taking a course in a language you do not totally comprehend makes you listen and observe every detail. And even though I did not fully grasp everything spoken I was capable of taking part in all exercises fully. Perhaps language isn’t a complete barrier to learning after all.
I consider myself very lucky to have participated in many of Tom’s workshops all over the world. One of the best things about learning with him is getting to work and meet all sorts of talented performers.
Group learning is very practical compared to working alone. We absorb theory and apply it faster. And by advocating play and the practical imperative after a short discussion we immediately apply the misdirection techniques through creating an example via performance. We then watch all the work and then briefly discuss it before moving onto the next exercise.
Thanks for noticing!
Although the thinking was the same as the introduction workshop, this weeks work was truly a step up.
The noticeable difference in the Upgrade to any previous courses I’ve attended was that Tom got straight into the material. We very briefly touched base on two of his basic misdirection techniques – which I use now all the time.
- Think Face
- Crossing the gaze
From there we practiced these methods by simply vanishing a real coin. For anyone whom has been a student of Tom’s previously you will know we begin with an imaginary one.
The first task was to use the think face to vanish the coin firstly as individuals in front of the group. Next we had to do it in pairs by taking the coin and passing it to the next person whom would then make it vanish. And finally in groups of three. These exercises happened with no discussion beforehand, just using the methods above to make a coin vanish. What was extremely interesting is that not one performance was the same. Everyone managed to bring their own personality to the piece. And they were all hilarious!
You cannot logic your way through emotion…
Yet showing emotion when you perform can at times provide logic to your actions. Another challenging exercise I enjoyed very much was to begin with one emotion and end with the opposite. A lot easier said than done. Particularly when you are working with another person whom also has to apply this. Ultimately this exercise made us all more aware of how we feel as we are performing. And perhaps it’s important to think our way through performances. Why are we holding a pack of cards in a particular way? Why is the audience looking at me like that etc.
What I love about Tom’s teaching is the practical imperative. As soon as he gives us an exercise we must set off and do it. He also tends to give us interesting idioms to apply to the exercises also. An example is this one…
He makes a pit, digs it deep,
and falls into the hole he made.Psalm 7:15-17 – Complete Jewish Bible
In other words… if you set a trap for others, you will get caught in it yourself! Each exercise Tom gave us roughly 30 minutes to complete the task and perform what we created. During this task I got to create a Road Runner skit with another participant where literally things ended blowing up in my face! We simply do not get the opportunity to create stuff like this alone.
Practical Jokers beware!
A story you might all enjoy hearing. When I was younger I was looking after a friends old country house with my boyfriend at the time. Being performers there was always loads of strange props lying about the place.
Whilst he was out working I was doing the dishes in the kitchen. I looked out the kitchen window and saw another window looking directly down to the kitchen one.
Don’t ask why but at the time we had a severed head in our possession. I began thinking wouldn’t it be hilarious if I hung the head from this window in the bedroom. So that when my boyfriend came home and when to the sink, he would see the head hanging and freak out!
Sadly what happened was the complete opposite. I forgot about the head and when I went to fill the kettle I got the fright of my life! Hence why I very rarely do practical jokes anymore.
Back to the exercise…
Reading these demands above may seem like an impossible task to achieve. Especially in such a short space of time.
However the only way to fail the task is to not perform anything at the end of it. Having this knowledge, we are given permission to fail. And to play freely with each technique. The trick might not be up to scratch in terms to what we believe is ‘good’ magic but in doing the exercise we will understand more the technique.
The Power of Spoken Word!
As part of the Upgrade we as individuals were asked to contribute to the workshop in a form of putting together 10 minute TED talks. Not only did this give each of us more responsibility to create something for a performance but it gave each of us time to feel what it is like to teach others like Tom has been teaching us. Truly a wonderful exercise because each performer brought something completely different to the group. Here is a breakdown of all the topics discussed across the four days.
- Physical Theatre
- Charity shop finds for props and costume
- Creating an act
- Acting on stage
- Tricks up the Sleeve
- Breaking down a routine
Mentally draining but good for the soul
In all Tom’s workshops whether it just be one day or four, it is expected that you will leave exhausted both mentally and physically. This is not a workshop where you learn to mimic and perfect tricks or sleights from a ‘master’. It is a place to develop as a performer in the art of Magic. Exploring why misdirection works and how to apply it immediately. Tom lets us as performers explore freely techniques he has mastered for years in his works by applying them to our own.
His courses are accessible to performers of all levels and if you ever have the opportunity to take one of his courses be prepared to never see magic in the same way ever again! However do not despair…
This is never a bad thing. It is probably the most exciting thing that will happen to your magical development ever! It will change and mould you for the better. You will take more opportunities, play more and see that there really are no rules to creating magic.
Except that it must be fun!