This week I performed at an event in the Belfast Children’s Hospice for a group of three girls and their families. I perform quite a lot in this place, bringing some well needed joy to the kids, staff and families through magic. Something occurred that made me think a lot about planning out your show properly for each audience. And knowing what you say and how you say the lines can make such a difference.
So, it was a Halloween show and in this set I perform a Rob Driscoll ‘gift’ mentalism effect using balloons. At the end of the routine each child is rewarded with a balloon for selecting and matching a pair of Halloween characters. However, as I revealed the balloons and was about to hand It to one of the girls, her mother who was watching stopped me suddenly. It turned out that her daughter was allergic to balloons. As you can imagine if her mother was not there this could have been disastrous as the staff forgot to tell me this as they are very busy with other things on their minds too.
Now, I have been using balloons in my magic show since I started performing for children and I can tell you in this time, I have never had a problem with a child holding a balloon – I’m beginning to think so far I have been extremely lucky.
In this situation I felt awful because I really didn’t make an effort to check beforehand. I just presumed it would be ok. I wanted to tell this story because we are all learning and mistakes happen. How we deal with them will help us perform better in similar situations in the future,
Ever since this I’ve been wondering what is the best way to approach asking serious questions in a show context. If, for example, you forget to ask prior to starting a performance how do you double check something mid show. I began thinking through my script and wondered if it might be adaptable?
In the FizzWizzPop magic show, I bring a balloon sword into play towards the end of the show asking my assistant, “have you ever held a balloon before?”. This line came about for comedy purposes, as when my participant answers me (usually with a yes) I miss handing the balloon to them on purpose and it flies away.
I realised though if I put a little bit more emphasis on this line before giving the child the balloon, I can provide the space and time for a child or adult in the audience to say,wait, STOP! If there is an issue with using the balloon.
Without having to say the line, “are you allergic to latex?” I am indirectly asking the same question but in a way my character would. Children’s entertainment should be fun and one way of doing this is being aware of what you say and how you say it. You can still deal with a potentially serious situation in character. Some food for thought.
One last funny note – how children repay you for bringing magic into their lives? Spray a bubble gun in your face! And that’s partly why I love performing for children.