Magician in the Making
Feature article Write On – Issue #52
When someone tells you to picture a magician, what do you think of? Daniel Radcliffe, complete with a wand and broomstick? Or perhaps a cheesy performer with a top hat, cutting in half a scantily clad assistant? Ollie, a 13-year-old Year 10 student from Wellington, is none of those things. Admittedly, going into our interview, I thought he would be a stranger person than he turned out to be. After all, a hobby of doing magic tricks would have to be uncommon.
Ollie got started with magic around two years ago. He had seen magicians like Dynamo on TV and became enchanted watching what they did and, eventually, decided that he would love to try it out himself. After learning more through platforms like Youtube and reading speciality books, he joined the Wellington Magic Club a year and a few months ago. It was through this contact that he came on board to do this interview.
He tells me that visiting international magicians lecture at the Wellington Magic Club and other clubs around the world in order to pay for their travel. He asks if I’ve ever heard of ‘Penn & Teller: Fool Us,’ and I can’t say that I have. Ollie explains to me that they’re two very famous magicians who have a show where other magicians try to, as the name implies, fool them. If you can manage that, you’re considered to be one of the best of the best. Some of the aforementioned ‘best’ have given lectures in New Zealand.
There are two types of lecture. One is based around the theory of magic, which (disappointingly) isn’t about the physics involved in turning a person into a frog. It is, in fact, about things such as how to approach people and memorise their names so you can come back to them, and all kinds of useful little tips you’d never think about otherwise. The other type of lecture is of a flashier-sounding sort, where the visiting magician shows off the tricks they perform and then teach the audience how it’s done.
So, what does Ollie do himself? What are his tricks and specialities? He shows me something called cardistry, which is the art of flourishing cards. It definitely looks impressive as he smoothly fans the deck across the table and flips them back over in one swift motion. He shows me another trick, where he rubs the ace of diamonds and it ‘magically’ becomes a three of diamonds.
He says that he mainly sticks to cards. They’re very accessible; you only need a deck to get started after all. However, he’s done a few tricks with things from Tic-Tacs, to coins, to books. The
cards he has are specially designed for magic, so they have a nice, smooth finish on them. He makes it very clear that they aren’t trick cards in any way.
Why does he do it? Ollie says that he loves the reaction he gets from showing something that he loves doing. What kind of reaction? Mostly gasps and minds blown, he says. His mum, who has been sitting just off to the side the whole time whilst only hearing Ollie’s answers, turns to the camera to give me an excellent impression of the kind of jaw-dropped amazement he’d get.
He doesn’t like to do it much at school, mostly just showing his skills off to extended family or friends who come to visit. I ask about how people have reacted to it at school, whether people find it cool or think that he’s a bit dorky. The people he surrounds him with find it very cool. Others? Maybe not so much, but he doesn’t really care.
Ollie tells me that he got paid to perform at his sister’s birthday party once, and got a very good reception. He’d like to keep going with magic for quite a while as something on the side, and his mum is very supportive. Whatever jobs he ends up having, he can do performances at bars and cafes part-time for extra cash. I ask if he has any idea of what he’d like to do for a career when he’s older, and he answers me very truthfully that he absolutely doesn’t have a clue. It’s not as if he has time to figure that out, though. Magic isn’t the only thing he’s got going on, Anyway. He loves sport, doing football, basketball, handball, and adventure racing. He also really loves woodwork and makes a lot of boxes. Clearly very proud, his mum brings in a salt and pepper shaker Ollie made. There’s also his puzzle box, which isn’t just a box with a regular hinged lid; instead, you have to work out the ‘secret’ to it in order to get it open. This one requires that you get the right grip and pull the two sides apart. That definitely has a sense of magic.
I ask Ollie if he has a favourite fictional portrayal of magic. His answer is Harry Potter, and when I wonder about his Hogwarts’ house, he thinks he’d be a Ravenclaw. I can see it. His mother jostles him into doing a last trick for me before we finish. It’s completely off-the-cuff and so he promises me that there’s no setup involved. With his mother as a stand-in for a random audience member, he has her take a group of five cards from a shuffled deck, ‘like a game of draw poker.’ She shows her choices to me as Ollie turns away, a five of hearts, nine of spades, two of spades, queen of hearts, and three of diamonds. He proclaims that he will predict which card of the five she has chosen and which ones she hasn’t. He has her take them behind her back and mix them around.
“Is one of the cards the five of hearts?” he asks. Correct.
“And there’s no nine of spades.”
“And … I don’t think it’s the queen of hearts.”
“And it’s also not the two of spades, so place that one down too.”
“That leaves us with … it’s a red card, it’s a three, is it the three of diamonds?”
Idly, as we finish up the interview, he continues to flick the cards across the table artfully and effortlessly. I have to say that I’m impressed, and not just with the tricks. I certainly hope that Ollie will continue with his magic. I can picture the audiences loving it.