Following the Robbie Williams gig, along with the crushing Objective audition, I set off to put together a new stage act - an act I could use as a springboard into what I felt was the next chapter of my performing career. My plan was to write the show and hire a small theatre to test out; from there, I could offer it to corporate events and private parties.
The act would be 45-minutes long, consisting predominantly of me talking; as opposed to the almost exclusively silent style of magic that I was performing when I used to tour with Sir Ken Dodd. I had a few ideas to go from, and knew I could use a couple of the same tricks from my show at the Crosby Civic Hall a few years earlier, but that was essentially all I started with.
Before committing a single word to the page, or making any firm decisions on what tricks I would actually do to fill the hour, I thought it was best I hire a venue. I work infinitely better under a deadline, so I knew that committing to a date and knowing that people would be coming (hopefully!) would force me to get the show ready in time.
My theatre of choice was the Liverpool Actor’s Studio, an intimate (the word theatre-types use when the theatre is small) location with a capacity of just 80 people. I thought that if I could do the show there, completely free of charge, I’d be able to get a good feel for it, and use the video as a promotional tool to land more gigs.
With the theatre confirmed for Friday, 7th February 2014, I posted the reservation details on my Facebook page and website and set off to work on putting the show together. A few hours later, my phone rang…
“Hello, Stephen!” said the lady on the phone, “We just want to let you know that all the tickets for your show in the Actor’s Studio have now been reserved.”
I was completely taken aback! Although the tickets were free, I didn’t expect people to book them so early! Never mind for them all to be taken in such a short amount of time! Suddenly, the whole thing became real. People had now arranged to come and watch the show! The show which, let’s not forget, I hadn’t even written yet!
That said, I decided to go ahead and book the theatre for the following night, Saturday 8th February 2014 as well. My thought was that I could use the first show as a ‘trial run', then use the following day to make tweaks and changes, and try it again that evening.
The plan seemed solid, so now with the extra night added, along with the pressure of the deadline, the countdown to having the show ready had begun.
A school of thought for some magicians is that a stage show really needs to entirely pack into a small briefcase for it to be practical - so much so, that anyone who performs with anything larger than that often gets snubbed by those who do subscribe to the idea. As such, you’ll often see ‘comedy’ stage magicians with a (usually shiny) metal briefcase, atop a barstool next to them. They do a trick; take a bow; go back into the briefcase and grab the next trick, repeating the process. It’s depressing to watch and looks dreadful to an audience, but at the time I didn’t know any better - so I started writing the show with that restriction in mind.
I worked solidly on the show for a couple of weeks and I was actually quite proud of the end result - excited about trying it out in front of a real audience!
Arriving at the theatre, my tech rehearsal probably took all of 10 minutes (a hand-held microphone in a stand and a general lighting wash), so the rest of the day was spent milling about and going over the script. Now, on the other hand, my tech rehearsal takes at least an hour and a half, on a particularly good day! I wouldn’t dream of using a ‘general wash’, and don’t even get me started on a hand-held microphone! But, alas...
Later that night, showtime arrived and it was... ok. It wasn’t bad, by any means, but looking back quite a few of the sections were just a bit naff, really. The music choices weren’t great. The lighting wasn’t great. Some of the magic was quite good, but there was just a comedy-club style vibe to everything I was doing, which in hindsight didn’t really match the ‘event’ theme I was looking for. Still, I’d now officially started my journey to becoming a solo stage performer!
The following day, I altered several sections to the show, including changing one of the trick’s methods entirely, and performed it again that night. I was much happier with this show, but after seeing Robbie Williams perform, I knew I’d need extra help to take it to the next level, to be able to make it the event I hoped it would be. That is where Russ Stevens came into the mix. To find out what happened next, click here.