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Oliver Tabor - West End Magic Interview

Prepare for a cloak and dagger performance as London’s longest running magic show West End Magic kicks off its awe-inspiring tour at London’s Leicester Square Theatre, on Saturday 24th February. Hosted by the multi-award-winning member of the Magic Circle Oliver TaborWest End Magic revels in a theatrical and spell-binding show of illusions, tricks and show-stopping escapism that has audiences questioning reality. 

West End Magic has earned a permanent fixture in London's theatre calendar, just a stone’s throw away from the original sites of magic’s Golden Age in early 20th Century, when the likes of Houdini, Chung Ling Soo and David Devant performed at The Hippodrome and Egyptian Hall. West End Magic has since expanded its inner circle by bringing its magic touch to visiting venues around the country. Established at Deptford’s Albany Theatre, West End Magic developed from a magicians’ club’s 10-year reunion A Night of Magic in 2007, and has drastically been expanding audiences and engagement ever since through the astounding world of masterful trickery. 

The show continues the legacy from the days of weekly meetings at Davenport’s magic shop, where members met to hone their card tricks and perfect their illusions for 15 years. Audiences of all ages can expect award-winning magic, illusions, audience participation, mind magic, perilous knife juggling, and comedy magic all held together by an engaging host

Ahead of the tour, we caught up with Oliver Tabor to discuss the show and magic in more detail. 

Lets go back to your beginnings, when did you know that you wanted to be a magician?
I can remember distinctly: I was 12 years old and during a family trip to see the London Christmas lights we made a visit to Hamleys toy shop. One of the in-store demonstrators asked me to choose a playing card from a regular deck of cards and then transformed the entire pack into my chosen card which also matched a prediction I was holding in my hand the entire time. That moment created an incredible spark and excitement and I knew at once that Id found my passion.
How did you approach becoming a magician?
Unfortunately, Hogwarts didnt exist when I was growing up and Im now too old to apply as a student! So, when I left school, I started working at the oldest family run magic shop in the world, Davenports. Sadly it doesnt exist anymore, but the shop was located underground near to Charing Cross underground station and I imagine was very similar to walking into Olivanders wand shop from Harry Potter: crammed with wooden cabinets and cases packed full of mystical magic props. This became my university. I worked behind the counter demonstrating magic, learning newly released tricks and reading as many books as I could… plus I had the opportunity to meet the top magicians of the day and gain their invaluable knowledge.
You’re back preparing for a new tour, how excited are you to take this around the country?
The excitement meter is currently reading at a steady 11 out of 10! We tested out the show last year on a tour to celebrate the 10th anniversary of our residency at the Leicester Square Theatre and were now thrilled to go back on the road: but this time were making it bigger, more high tech and presenting tricks and illusions which havent been seen on a UK stage before.

What is your process for preparing a show?
At the beginning of the year, we look forward to meeting up to discuss which new routines, tricks and illusions wed like to feature and then start building and planning. Then we spend a month rehearsing and refining before the most exciting part of putting them altogether and performing them in the show.
How do you decide which tricks to include in the show?
We like to make sure there is a good mixture and variety of tricks, illusions and entertainment. For example, well have a big spectacular illusion, followed by some sleigh-of-hand card magic, then comedy, mind-reading, elegant classic magic plus a guest act that may offer juggling, dangerous stunts or ventriloquism. We make sure to cover all tastes and ages, without too many card tricks!
Are there any particular tricks that stand out as your favourites to perform?
My favourite tricks are the ones where I get the opportunity to meet people of the audience. One act in particular that I love to perform involves turning a child into a magician on stage: I love to watch their face light up when they make the magic happen!
What is the biggest challenge facing a magician in 2024?
For me, the demands of the doves I perform with: their rider increases every year! This year they want a dressing room each and I have to separate their bird seed into individual colours. 
If you could have dinner with 3 famous magicians, who would you invite and why?
That is a fantastic question! There have been so many interesting characters in the world of magic over the years… I think Id choose Chung Ling Soo, who is famous for his death defying bullet catch: however, one night the gun misfired and he died as a result. After the incident, he was discovered to not have not been Chinese at all but an American called William Robinson posing as a Chinese magician. Id have so many questions to ask him! Derren Brown, as hed be a very good conversation starter and fascinating to listen to and finally Channing Pollock. He was the original classical” magician: suave and sophisticated… a real trend setter and hed know how to pick a good bottle of wine!
What keeps you inspired?
Watching as many other shows as I can keeps the ideas flowing, not just magic, but concerts, plays, talks, films and lots of reading. It all keeps the imagination and creative cogs turning.
What do you hope an audience takes away from the show?
Our main aim is for the audience to have a good time, be entertained, amazed and I hope, at some point during the show, to believe in magic: even if its just for a second. Experiencing wonder can bring out a childlike quality in everyone and its intoxicating to see an audience experience that.

West End Magic plays on tour beginning at London's Leicester Square Theatre on Saturday 24th February. With visits to Sheringham Little Theatre on 23rd March, Carnegie Theatre on 6th April, The Corn Exchange Witney on 12th April, Komedia in Bath on 12th May, Kenton Theatre in Henley-On-Thames on 29th May, Corn Exchange in Newbury on 30th May, Key Theatre in Peterborough on 21st June, Forum Theatre in Stockton-On-Tees on 22nd June, South Mill's Arts in Bishop's Stortford on 27th July, Theatre Royal in Winchester on 4th August, Palace Theatre in Paignton on 10th August, Taunton Brewhouse on 24th August, The Albany Theatre in Coventry on 20th September, Settle Victoria Hall on 21st September, The Lamproom Theatre in Barnsley on 11th October, Leicester Square Theatre on 19th October, Blackwood Miners' Institute on 26th October and Chequer Mead Theatre in East Grinstead on 3rd November.  

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