January 2013: Magicians & The Music Hall – Robin Maddy

Robin, who is a member of the Magic Circle, took us back to the 1900s to show us the amazing world of magic which so enthralled our grand-parents and great grand-parents when they went to the music hall. The cinema was in its infancy; variety theatre was the most popular form of public entertainment and great magicians were big celebrities of the day.

Magic became popular when John Maskelyne started his performances in 1873 at the Egypt Hall in London. He was joined by David Devant who continued through to the 1920s. The tricks they performed were astonishing – from the ‘Levitation of the Lady’ through to ‘Sawing the Lady in Half’ – all performed with great aplomb and immaculate precision. Others included Chung Ling Soo – highly successful until his bullet catching trick went wrong – and the escapologist Harry Houdini, who also died in tragic circumstances.

These were the greats. Many others sought to emulate them and the popularity of magic spread across the western world. It remains so today in venues ranging from theatres to cruise liners. This was a highly entertaining talk, well-illustrated by slides and tricks performed at intervals along the way.