So we’re reading this morning’s South Wales Echo to get the latest on the Ryder Cup and stumbled news of magician Pete Firman’s Jokes and Tricks tour’s arrival in Cardiff.
The young magician brings his show to the wonderfully appointed St David’s Hall in beautiful Cardiff this evening.
The Echo covers the appearance with a full profile of the rapid-fire comedian/magician noting magic has changed “since the heady days of the 70’s when pioneering acts such Ali Bongo, David Nixon and a young tyke by the name of Paul Daniels bestrode the landscape like three horsemen of the magical apocalypse.”
What a great turn of a phrase. We love good writing and that sentence is precisely the type of introduction that makes us read more of an article regardless of the topic.
Pete Firman sees continuity between his famous predecessors and the conjurors of the avant garde “It might sound weird, but I used to see Daniels on the telly when I was younger and thought, ‘Hey, this guy’s pretty cool.’”
Telly means “television” or “TV” in English.
We translate here because the writer not only turns a good phrase, he also tosses in shibboleths of Wales.
For instance, the reporter says Pete Firman “has long traded on the disparity between his down to earth matey nature and the occasionally shocking nature of his tricks.”
What does “down to earth matey” mean? Chances are if you have to ask, you’re not from around the Wales Echo home delivery route.
We guessed that because the word matey sounds like something a pirate might say, the phrase means someone is a regular but partially blind, wood prosthetic wearing type. Again, this is just a guess.
In a later section, the writer describes Pete Firman’s appearance on the television series Monkey Magic :
It was a frenetic, gonzo televisual affair that stripped away a lot of the mystical naffness that had infected magic via the portentous conduit of David Blaine and endeared the likeable northerner to the post-pub audience.
No clue here on what naffness constitutes much less “mystical naffness” which we presume is far more impressive and likely more expensive than pedestrian or generic naffness. Nonetheless it was stripped away and that is the important thing. If you try to perform today, and an audience even gets a whiff of naffness, you’re essentially dead on stage. We’ve seen it happen to close friends and animal acts – not pretty nor very down to earth matey-esque.
Asked whether it is difficult to be successful as a magician and comedian, Pete Firman’s response is very analytical:
“You have to pay attention to the rhythm of the show, incorporating the two elements so that you’re not just going ‘here’s joke, now here’s the trick’ and actually get a bit of a flow going.
“In a purely stand-up based show, you’re getting a laugh, or a punchline at least, every 15 to 20 seconds. It’s hard to match that with magic, which is inherently a bit slower to unfold.
“But I do think it’s quite a natural fit in a way, since both comedy and magic rely on you being able to build up a rapport with the crowd, to get them on your side, to manage that relationship.
“Sometimes it goes smoothly and sometimes it’s a struggle. But that’s the way it goes. But audiences seem to respond to it pretty positively, so it’s not that foreign to them I suppose.”
And the ties to the great magicians of the past?
“When you get right down to it, there’s only five different types of tricks really, production, the vanish, transformation, teleportation and restoration, so it’s all about finding new ways to work with the basic techniques to make something special.”
With his tremendous success as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival (and talk of his return to the wonderful summer experience again) Pete Firman has continuity with the great magicians.
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