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Me and Paul Daniels Part III

high wycombeIn my first posting of this series, I mentioned that I saw Paul Daniels at the Prince of Wales Theatre in London in 1981, where he performed for some 18 months.  He had another run in London a few years later - I think it may have been at the Savoy Theatre - a show which I saw a couple of times.  On the second occasion I did something which I have never done before, or since, which was to sneak into the second half without paying.  I just turned up at half-time, mingled with the audience enjoying the break and took an empty seat to watch the remainder of the show.  As far as I can recall, this second half was essentially the same as he did at the Prince of Wales show - Daniels at his best.

The next time I saw him live in front of the general public was at the Swan Theatre in High Wycombe as part of his It's Magic National Tour.  This was in 1993, his penultimate  year before The Paul Daniels Magic Show on BBC 1 would come off air; and included not only Debbie McGee but also his son Martin - so it was very much a family show.

programmeThe majority of the tricks were 'as seen' although there was a prediction effect involving six envelopes.  This became part of his repertoire because I saw it again in a subsequent show.  Mentalism really wasn't Paul's forte and you got the impression that it was very much a 'time filler', enabling him to chat his way through a relatively dull procedural explanation of what he was doing.  The most interesting aspect of the show, though, was a combination of the Spirit Cabinet and the Electric Chairs - which, after this tour, I don't think he ever attempted again.

In theory it was a good idea: the 'spirits' that caused items to be flung out of the cabinet were so powerful that they also caused the two men, sitting on chairs next to the cabinet checking that nothing untoward was happening, to jump up too. However it was all too much for the audience to really appreciate what was going on; and it became a little confusing, diluting the impact of the Electric Chairs and taking the focus away from the Spirit Cabinet.  The next time I saw Daniels present the Spirit Cabinet, it was without the Electric Chairs.

Overall, though, the show was very entertaining - and it certainly provided value for money with plenty of illusions , including the one which he closed his Prince of Wales show with - the Asrah (a levitation, followed by a vanish).   It was themed around Star Wars in 1981 but in 1993 it was Phantom of the Opera.

weymouth flyerPaul was also in good form six years later when I saw him in Weymouth in the Paul Daniels Magical Laughter Show: this was a summer season show and, to its advantage, was more tightly scripted than the one in High Wycombe.  Paul himself performed no new trick or illusion that I hadn't seen before.  He reprised, again from the repertoire from his Prince of Wales show, perhaps my favourite illusion of his - Backstage with the Magician.  This is where the audience are apparently let in on the secret of how an illusion works by watching it from the rear.  Once again, though, it was very much his note in Lemon, Egg & Walnut and Electric Chairs that was the highlight of the show.

It was interesting that for this show Daniels didn't open with his Chop Cup, but instead his version of the six card repeat.  Indeed, after 1993, I never saw him do the Chop Cup live again.  I guess he thought it was a trick that most people had seen; but, as I said in an earlier posting, for me it was the greatest cabaret trick of all times - and really was one that could bear constant repetition. 

1999 was a watershed year, not just for the millennium, but also I suspect for Daniels's career when it came to live performing.  Never again, after this, would he be able to fill out a large theatre on his own.  Instead he would mainly perform in art centres and municipal halls, at  festivals and even village halls.  He always put a positive spin on this, claiming that he much preferred such venues to West End Theatres. In some ways this was in keeping with his life's philosophy: he always maintained, if the worst came to the worst, that he could earn a living doing tricks down the local pub - and he was quite happy with that thought.

It was always greatly to Paul's credit that if some of us felt sorry for him for his decline in popularity, he never gave the impression that he felt sorry for himself.

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