The Case For Close Up (Case Not Sponsored By TCC)

Posted on April 18th 2024

I was recently listening to Michael Vincent’s podcast. He was joined by Chris Wood to discuss everything from growing up as an avid magic hobbyist to selling a close-up show. For those who aren’t familiar with Chris, he is a top guy and a phenomenal close-up performer. You might not have heard of him because he isn’t a traditional “publisher” of magic effects, but he’s been on the circuit longer than I’ve been alive.

Funnily enough, on joining the Magic Circle as a young raggamuffin in 2012, he was the first magician I ever sessioned with. I sat at his table all night and he bombarded me with close-up miracles (I say it as if it’s a bad thing, I was loving it). As it got late, he invited me out for a meal. At the time I was a broke student, and he didn’t hesitate to cover the bill (and refused my attempts to split). He’s the nicest guy in magic and is always full of stories.

During the podcast, Michael and Chris were comparing close-up magic to stage magic and it sparked my curiosity. Chris mentioned how, amongst magicians, close-up is considered to be stage magic’s “poor little sister”. I agree. Recently, after a long hiatus mostly down to COVID-19, I’ve rejoined the Magic Circle and enjoyed attending club nights. That said, I’ve noticed a rivalry between close-up and stage magicians that has left a bad taste in my throat.

Why do magicians poke fun at close-up? Are they envious of how it’s the most commonly booked form of magic? Or, is it an intense desire to change the status quo? Even if close-up is more in demand, it isn’t the most lucrative. Ask any walkaround performer that. Most of us aren’t raking it in. This in mind, is stage magic the “true” form of magic?

While stage performances convey wonder in a way nothing else can – the magic of entering a theatre, the mysterious apparatus, the spellbinding music – it’s not for me. I’m a sleight-of-hand performer for close-up and parlour audiences. I can perform a pickpocket-themed stage show and will be later this year, but this is a genre that plays differently to traditional magic. I still enjoy watching stage shows like Penn and Teller, Mac King, and David Copperfield. I recently attended Young Magician of the Year 2024 and was blown away by the talent and stage presence of these kids. But I know my character and know he would be out of place sawing someone in half.

I’m not here to say which one is better. It’s purely subjective. I’m biased, but if I had to give an argument for close-up, I’d say one thing. In almost every professional gig I am booked for, at least one person proclaims, “It’s so much better when it’s up close!” They’re saying this because of how organic and impossible close-up magic can seem. The ball appeared in her hand, the card jumped to the top, the coin vanished – right under her nose! And yes, everything can be examined.

Neither stage or close-up should be treated like the other’s poor little sister. Both have their place in the art of magic.


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