Oh mummy I'm scundered!

Lots of you who read my blog are probably wondering what the above title means? Being ‘scundered’ is a very colloquial term used in Belfast and Northern Ireland.

People say it when they are really embarrassed about something. Or if they are terribly shy.

I performed a magic show last week for a little girls 4th birthday party and I could see before starting my show that she was extremely scundered. Shy to the point she was clinging onto mummy in the beginning of me show.

Shyness is an interesting topic to discuss because we all as performers come across audience members who are shy.

FizzWizzPop Birthday party introducing the star of the show

It’s particularly interesting when it is a birthday child.

When you are hired for a birthday party it’s very much expected that parents wish to see their children involved in the show that they have paid for.

How do we handle the situation when a child simply does not wish to participate?

Always Ask

Just because a child is outwardly displaying sheer terror at being asked to help does not mean they do not wish to participate. (I have been surprised on many occasions).

You must at least ask them, regardless If they say no. The next and most important thing then is how you handle their response.

If the child says yes ‘hoorah!’

If the child says no to helping there are several ways of handling it. Here are a few of my own suggestions.


When I first began performing for children I saw no other option but to continue performing the show as rehearsed. To keep the show moving, I had to get another volunteer up to perform the trick, fast.

This solution worked. The show could continue however, in my opinion it wasn’t the most personal approach. Or memorable one.

Yes, another child is delighted to get up instead of the birthday child. Seemingly the problem is solved. However, the most important child in the room does not leave the show feeling in any way fulfilled. Remember it is their special day after all.

Seated Star!

During On of my shows recently by chance, a child did not wish to come up and help me. I chose to try and perform the trick without the birthday child up. Interacting solely with said child whilst they were sitting in the audience. I was surprised that my script did not change much just my focus.

This option allowed the child to be highly involved. Make decisions, answer questions without having to stand in-front of their peers. I could tell that this method impressed parents too. Especially ones who understood just how ‘scundered’ their children could be. And to my surprise after the show the child completely opened up to me. We played games and she showed me her cake, normal activity resumed because of this relaxed approach.

Miniture magic display

I have quite a bit of experience working in Bedside Theatre. A style of performance designed for very sick children to experience in hospitals, hospices and their homes. It was from my experience working in this environment that this third approach came into play for FizzWizzPop.

In the FizzWizzPop Magic show, the birthday trick is all about the process of giving a gift to the child.

I began pondering what would change if I brought the gift down to the child? Letting them open it on the floor amongst the audience?

In practice this changes the dynamic of a show

If you wish to create a moment like this in your show you must be fearless. The odds of loosing group focus is extremely high. However, the risk is one worth taking for a shy birthday child to feel fully involved in a show.

I also found performing a miniature magic show on the floor created excitement and more magic than expected.

When an item is set in the centre of a group of children, anything can happen. Upon my first try doing this I was amazed that all the kids jumped in closer to see what was going on, laughter happened where it hadn’t before. I was able to look the birthday child right in the eyes. It was something quite beautiful to behold. And this shy feeling completely evaporated. We were all experiencing the magic close together.

The potential disaster of not using the birthday child, or upsetting them can be easily avoided by tweaking things slightly to get them involved.

I always like to think of the impression I leave children after they watch FizzWizzPop perform. I want it to be a totally positive one. And if they are too afraid to help, I don’t want them to somehow think it is their fault. So I try to work it that they are still at the heart of the magic. Such a small change to mindset can make such a difference to the people you involve in your magic shows.

Connect with your audience and more memorable it can be

Ultimately, it will make you feel fulfilled too.


  1. Very insightful and interesting! I will have to take this into account when I design my new kids act.

    1. It’s just another way of thinking I guess. Perhaps what is best for you as a performer is not best for your audience. You may not feel in total control but the situation requires you to do it. But again it takes time…be brave!

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