I recently visited Paris to attend a lecture by Spanish magician Juan Tamariz, one of magic’s modern legends.
Juan Tamariz has appeared on UK television several times, on shows like The Best of Magic and The World’s Greatest Magic, but in countries such as Spain and South America, he is a household name.
Juan Tamariz is a whirlwind when he performs magic. Wearing his trademark thick glasses and purple top hat, his quickfire speech and flamboyant gestures create a contagious energy.
Juan Tamariz has a casual manner, at times bordering on clumsy, but behind the laid-back appearance is one of magic’s keenest minds. Magicians travel from around the world to learn from him and several of his students have gone on to become world champions.
Juan Tamariz is like TV detective Columbo, his chaotic manner allows him to come under the radar. Actions that appear haphazard might be complex legerdemain. When engaging the audience in warm banter, he’s thinking several moves ahead, like a top-class chess player, planning his grand finale.
One of the things Juan Tamariz is most famous for is his incredible attention to detail, everything he does is for a reason. Most magicians will focus on certain aspects of their performance, such as their sleight of hand and scripting, while Tamariz goes much further. The way he stands, the tone of his voice, his body language, the movement of his eyes, he painstakingly perfects every aspect.
Why does he go to such lengths? It isn’t to fool people or to show how clever he is, rather it’s so that he can create the perfect experience for his audience. He wants to give them a sense of child-like wonder they’ve probably not felt since, well, childhood. Juan Tamariz is one of magic’s few genuine artists.
And so I had no choice but to jump on the Eurostar and see the great man in action. Juan Tamariz was lecturing at the Double Fond, an intimate bar and theatre dedicated to magic. It is owned by another well-known magician, Dominique Duvivier. Duvivier is a fine performer and inventor, and the owner of possibly the oldest magic shop in the world – Mayette Magic.
The lecture was pretty intense. It was an all-night event, running from 8pm – 5am, plus Juan Tamariz did the whole session in French, which really put my GCSE language skills to the test.
The audience consisted of around 60 experienced magicians, some of whom were sitting only a few feet away from Juan Tamariz, and yet he managed to blow us all away.
With a single playing card held in his hand, he asked somebody to name any card. He turned over the card to show he was dead-on.
Two members of the audience shuffled their own packs of cards and both chose a card, only to find they’d chosen the same card.
I liked his description of magic as an art that combines the best aspects of cinema and theatre. Cinema is a world that can fire the imagination, as virtually anything is possible. But the screen puts a barrier between the audience and the action, limiting the intimacy and immediacy. Theatre has the strength of being something that we can engage with firsthand, but it is bound by the same physical laws as everyday life.
Magic has the realness of theatre, as tricks can be performed inches away from spectators, or even in their own hands. But, like cinema, magic also makes anything possible – objects can appear and disappear, thoughts can be read, you name it. It’s this combination of the fantastic and the real that makes magic so powerful and entertaining. That is certainly true in the hands of a master like Juan Tamariz.