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Welcome to Noel Britten's Bizarre Bath.

Return to our July 2019 issue to consider Rob Zabrecky's Strange Cures, video from Steve Spill, and the demise of Mad magazine.

August 2019

This issue is seriously tardy, thanks to Maleficent and I having been out of the country for a bit. We just returned from England, specifically London and Bath, and it was just great fun. Magic-wise, I report below on Noel Britten's Bizarre Bath Walk, on a close-up magic show at the Magic Circle, and on the magic-rich play, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Three great events!

Todd Karr reports that the Annemann book is at hand, the first of some great books expected this fall. I also look forward to the David Regal book, the Steve Spill book, the Eugene Burger book, the Nick Trost book, and Genii's Magicana, plus have been enjoying the book shown at the bottom of this page. Fun times!

NOEL BRITTEN'S BATH -- OK, the city of Bath, in England, is about as cute as a destination resort city gets. The natural phenomenon of 116-degree F waters appealed to the Romans as a source for nude public bathing, around 60 AD. Those toga parties! The stunning Bath Abbey was founded in the 8th century and rebuilt in the 16th and 17th. Georgian architecture in the 17th gave Bath much of its look today, and Jane Austen and her family began visiting and living there as early as 1797. Bath scenes constitute settings in her Northanger Abbey and Persuasion.

Ubiquitous brochure..

For well over a quarter century, Bath has also been home to Noel Britten's walking comedy magic tour, Bizarre Bath, nightly at 8:00 PM during the season. Noel is of course an international magic star, a popular visitor to American magic conventions, and cover boy for the March 2009 issue of MAGIC (eight pages by David Britland). He is dead funny with or without props, and I was previously familiar with some of his more famous bits, such as his challenge underwater chain escape (he "escapes" while dunking his head in a bucket of water). This hardly prepared me for the intelligence with which the entire mobile experience in Bath is constructed.

The tour begins here.

Maleficent and I joined the tour on a recent Thursday evening. The walk begins in daylight, but the light quickly fades as the one and a half hour tour ensues, and the walk takes on the aspect of an adventure. Noel is a business grad from Bath University, and business doesn't get more immediate than collecting ten pounds from each patron, passing out wrist bands, and hilariously dissuading strangers from attaching themselves to the roving audience.

I can do this tour with my eyes closed.

The tour exploits the local history, the varying landscape, the breathtaking traffic hazards, the shifting lighting, and the diversity of the multi-national crowd. In his purple jacket, standing on a box decorated with two purple balloons (what are they for?), Noel asks where everyone is from. He has a gag for every country, and this starts the genius-level foreshadowings and callbacks and personalizations that mark the event. As the David Britland article pointed out, Noel also has many bits that make each tour seem unique -- did someone really just ride by on a bicycle, blindfolded?

I also noticed that Noel makes all the magic about the audience. For example, in a Bank Night lock and key effect he divides the audience into three groups according to their star signs, and the groups compete. There is a constant sense of participation, of involvement. What fun! And is it ever getting dark!

On this night it isn't Noel that attempts an underwater chain escape, but his toy rabbit. The creature is chained, locked inside a mail pouch, and tossed into the black waters of a nearby river. Does it escape? Ah, you have to be there.

About to toss a bunny into the drink.

*Surprise question: What do / did Noel Britten, Paul Daniels, Aldo Colombini, Tommy Cooper, and President Gerald R. Ford have in common? Answer below.

The longevity and popularity of the Bizarre Bath Walk make Noel a popular fixture in Bath. His bicycle ads are prominently placed, abd his brochures are in virtually every shop we entered. You will feel cheated on your trip to Bath if you fail to attend. (My only previous visit to England was in February, off season, when Noel and his wife were in Borneo, returning orphaned orangutans to the wild.) Noel has longterm plans for additional entertainment experiences in Bath, and his short-term plans include an upcoming cruise ahd his first gig at the Magic Castle. Oh, yes, and he is a candidate for president of the Magic Circle, a situation that may be decided before this goes live. Good luck, my friend!

Want to know more about Noel and the walk? Check out "Bizarre Bath/The Comedy Walk" by David Britland, MAGIC August 1999, "Noel Britten" by David Britland, MAGIC March 2009, and "Noel Britten Magician and Humanitarian," Scott Wells' The Magic Word Podcast #189.

SHOWTIIME AT THE CIRCLE -- The highlight of my February 2012 visit to England was a personal tour of the Magic Circle, courtesy of Matt Field. It was a monday night, open that night to members only, and I regretted that we didn't have an open Monday for my current trip to the UK. Ah, but things have changed. The Magic Circle is now open on various evenings (and other occasions) for close-up magic, for which you can purchase advance tickets. On those evenings, four magicians of differing styles treat the audiences to a half-hour stint each. Performances transpire on two floors, and the magi rotate.

The door is open.

I attended on a recent Saturday and enjoyed the work of Andy Reay, Roberto Forzoni, Richard McDougall, and Paul Regan. All entertained the eager crowd, and I was often surprised and fooled.

Tommy Cooper exhibit.

Andy seemed to appeal mostly to the kids (I loved their reactions), with a vanishing silk, a You Do As I Do card routine, and an Egg Bag.

Although Roberto performed a variety of psychological mysteries (he is also a professional psychologist who has worked with Andy Murray), such as making a girl forget how to read and touching a lady psychically, I enjoyed most his various word revelations, seemingly procedureless. Just like mind reading.

Richard impressed me with some strong Ambitious Card sequences and a Chop Cup, but I especially liked his Gypsy Thread. Many of my favorite magicians (too many, to be honest) have been doing Gypsy Thread lately accompanied by some story or parable, and for me this loses the magic. Richard went the opposite direction, explaining in great detail exactly what was happening magically, with no distracting story, and it was thrilling.

Paul, dapper in a light-colored suit and better dressed than most street performers, restored a card with his mouth while a spectator held it, killed with Slydini silk knots, and especially made me happy with Paul Harris's linking cards. I rarely get to see this, and especially from a street performer.

Vintage magic kit.

I had the opportunity for a brief chat with Roberto and Richard, and once again, as always, felt that magicians everywhere are nicer than people. Thanks, Magic Circle.

BOYS WILL BE BOYS -- Ever since the August 2016 issue of Genii, I have been jealous of Randy Pitchford, who attended the opening of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, the theatrical play, and wrote it up for the magazine. Subscribers are invited to turn back to that issue of Genii and relive Randy's experience. In addition to great acting and a great story, the play is chock full of magical effects and wand battle pyrotechnics. As most know, the play is presented in two parts, and I recently contented myself to attending Part 2, having read the entire script beforehand in hardback.

My first view of the Palace Theatre.

To give a little context, the main characters in the story are Harry's son, Albus Potter, and Draco's son, Scorpius Malfoy. The boys scheme to illegally time travel back to the Triwizard Tournament to save Cedric Diggory's life. They fail badly, twice, altering time disastrously. By the end of Part 1, Harry has been dead 20 years and Albus never existed, and Voldemort is victorious. As Part 2 opens, Delores Umbridge is back in charge and warning us to keep our cell phones quiet.

Part 2 has a dark beginning.

I've little to add to Randy's report except to echo his claim that the time traveling was among the more impressive effects. Clocks appeared in space, hands turning, and the entire theater seemed to warp. Plus I add that the actor who played Scorpius stole the show. He was hilarious, bravely trying to keep up with the dark forces around him and just wanting a nice relationship with his dad. Hard to do when your dad is Draco Malfoy and your grandad is a Death Eater. In all, it is the most tricked out stage show I've ever seen, in a gorgeous old theater.


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This royal throne of kings, this sceptered isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-Paradise, ...



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*Answer to Surprise Question: A fondness for Robert Orben one-liners.

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