A year after the first time I approached a group of strangers and asked if they’d like to see some magic tricks, I was about to step foot on stage in front of 300 people. My heart was racing....
Aintree Hospital, close to where I lived, was holding an awards evening for their volunteers, and through somebody who my mum knew at work, I’d been invited along to perform. They’d told me they were looking for some close-up magic around the tables during the meal, followed by a 20-minute stage performance. I’d never performed on stage before, but without even considering what material I’d possibly have to perform in front of a big crowd, I immediately agreed to do it. I’ll put it down to the naivety of youth - both in thinking that I could do it, and even that people would be interested in watching! Nevertheless, popping on a little suit and being a cheeky-chappy with magic tricks had got me this far, so….
I’d recently learnt how to juggle - so my plan was to start strong with some dramatic music and three juggling clubs! What could possibly go wrong, I thought! Surely everybody enjoys juggling! From there, I’d perform a few light but hopefully entertaining magic tricks, building to an exciting crescendo where I’d predict the numbers that members of the audience had thought of!
I knew essentially nothing about performing on stage, so I thought the best course of action would be to just wing it and make everything up as I went along. It seemed like that’s what everybody else was doing, so the plan, in my mind, was nothing short of solid gold.
This, I’d imagine, is where being young really played to my favour. I started the evening by wandering around the tables and performing little pieces of close-up magic. Now, looking back, that was the key to making it work. As I’d already introduced myself to the guests, it seemed like they warmed to me and were endeared by the idea of a kid doing magic, so by the time I was introduced on stage they were already on my side and couldn’t have been lovelier, woo-ing my club juggling and applauding at all the right times.
As an audience, they instinctively became united in encouraging a young performer. They allowed me a moment to shine, however clumsy and rough around the edges it might have been, without any hint of condescension. It was wonderful of them; and, looking back, although they don’t know it, I can’t help but feel gratitude towards them all.
I was on cloud nine throughout the entire performance, and before I knew it, I’d reached my final trick of the evening. The number trick. The trick that was going to knock them between the eyes.
The general premise of the trick was that I’d throw an object to three people in the audience and have them stand up. Each person would then say a number between 1 and 99, and I’d have the third person make their way to the stage. They would then reach into my wallet (an unusual object for a 12-year-old to have, admittedly), and take out the scratch card within (I refer you back to my previous comment about the unusual object). They were to scratch off the panels on the card, which would reveal the winning numbers to be exactly what the audience had just named. To be fair, even by today’s standards that’s quite a decent trick.
Anyway, so I throw the object into the audience and had the first person stand up. “Hello, sir!” I said, in what I can only imagine to be a comically high-pitched voice. “I’d like you to name a number aloud for me please.”
There was a brief pause before the man announced, “69!”
The audience burst into spontaneous applause. I had absolutely no idea why.
“69, you say?” I questioned. More laughter.
“Yes!” he said.
“Is there any reason why you chose the number 69?” I asked. The audience howled! I had zero clue what they could possibly be finding funny about this completely innocuous number, but I knew I should push it further. “Is the number 69 important to you in some way? Your favourite number, maybe?”
The audience could tell I was completely flummoxed as to why they were finding it so funny, which only seemed to add to the moment. The man and I continued this to and fro for a little longer, before the audience were finally able to regain some control.
When the trick came to a close and I took my bow for the evening, the audience leapt to their feet! A standing ovation for my first ever stand-up show, I thought! Absolutely amazing!
From that point on, 69 became my favourite number too.