This evening on telly-freak show Britain’s Got Talent a magician named Richard Jones performed a card trick and got a standing ovation for it. OH HANG ON! No he didn’t. He relied on a special guest, presumably because his performance of the most pedestrian of card tricks was so poor. Like, visibly poor. To anyone with eyes.
It’s a storytelling trick – an oldie, but a goodie when done right – which sees the magician lay cards from an apparently-well-shuffled deck onto the table. The numbers on the cards correspond to whatever story the magician wishes to tell, usually involving dates, numbers and royalty or people in positions of power. The magician would say “It was 3am! Witching Hour!” and lay a three of clubs on the table, or “The Queen called for her Jester” while laying the Queen of Spades and a Joker card on the table. You get the idea.
Jones told the story of a war veteran who served King (cue laying down a King card) and country (cue laying down cards that read as the dates of the war). He churned out dates and stats and emotive rhetoric, along with a simple “tear and restore” trick, before unveiling a portrait of the soldier, made from a mosaic of nine cards – which he didn’t even get in order on the reveal; he had to rearrange them up by hand! Then, after he’d finished the trick – flanked on both sides by glittering Union flags and accompanied by the theme from the Dambusters and the like – he introduced the war hero whose story he’d been telling. They both waved and the entire room stood and applauded. I was almost sick.
There is so much I could pick at about the trick itself. I’m an amateur magician myself and sleight of hand card magic is my hobby, but you didn’t even have to be a keen amateur to spot his dreadful false shuffle at the start of his routine. And that’s the ONLY thing that makes the trick work. After that false shuffle the magician simply turns cards over from the top of the (prearranged) deck. There is NO trick. The audience are meant to think the magician is pulling cards from the top of a shuffled deck, which they’re obviously not. It’s the kind of trick you learn from your Grandfather to impress your mates at school. This guy botched it from the off. That annoyed me.
But it was the whole tone of the piece that really pissed me off. The pompous music, the fluttering Union flags, waving triumphantly around him, the fact that the idiot was wearing his dress uniform, all conspired to make the scene even more gutwrenchingly jingoistic than those shadow dancers that time, (you remember, the ones who went from genuinely emotive and hard-hitting interpretive art to pretending to be military bomber planes, again underscored by the theme to the Dambusters). Utter and unapologetic whoring out of genuine war heroes (hate that term) aside, Richard Jones’ performance resembled the kind of thing you’d imagine as the after-dinner entertainment at the BNP Annual Conference, booked on a budget.
It made my blood boil. Is this really where we are as a society?! Is that all that’s needed for a magician to get a standing ovation: a shit card trick and a pound shop Street Party Decoration kit?! Are we really this easy to win over? The magician should be judged on his competency in his chosen talent – card magic – not on the ability of the BGT production team to prepare the kind of staging that taps right into the current “patriotism” currently being nurtured by the likes of UKIP and those fronting the Leave campaign. If he wins, he can fuck right off. And so can you, “Great British Public”!