Cabaret Act

Cabaret Act

Here is the beginning of my "Magic for Socialism" cabaret act. How it develops after the first few tricks depends on circumstances - how long I've got, what sort of audience I'm playing to, what's in the news that week, etc. But it has often begun more or less like this (and you can see me performing to students at Exeter University, April 2006 here)...

IAN: Good evening. My name is Ian Saville, and I'm about to perform some magic tricks for you. But this is not ordinary magic. I will be doing political magic, Socialist Conjuring tricks. I realise that some members of the audience may not be entirely familiar with this genre, so in order to lead you gently into it, I thought I'd start off by showing you a trick that I saw an ordinary bourgeois magician perform many years ago. But in true socialist manner, I'll not only show you the trick but also how it's done, and a dialectically opposite method of performing it.

Ian (some time ago)


This is a trick I saw a magician do many years ago, with a red silk handkerchief (shows hankie) very similar to the one I have in my hand. The magician pushed the handkerchief into the top of his fist (does so), and then pulled it out the bottom, only to find that it had changed to an entirely different colour (pulls out hankie to find it's blue, but leaves fist closed).
I thought this was absolutely amazing. I don't know what you think, but I was very impressed. But then my consciousness hadn't been raised very far at the time. (looks at fist. Looks at audience. Raises fist.) Solidarity! In fact, I was so impressed that after the show I decided to go backstage (opens hand, showing it empty, and gestures back) to ask him how it was done. Please, hold back your applause.He told me that in order to perform this trick effectively, you need not one, but two handkerchieves. Some of you may have worked this out already (gets other red hankie) and they must both be different colours. That's very important. It's no good just one of them being a different colour, they've got to both be different colours. And before the show begins you take one of the handkerchieves, in this case it's going to be the red one, and you push it well down into the top of your fist (does so).
This is technically what we call the “preparation”, and it must be done in complete privacy. Or as near to it as you can get. You could for instance do it a meeting of the Gordon Brown Fan Club (or other appropriate/ topical line), but if you can do it in complete and utter privacy that's better. Now you're ready to begin. But one thing you must remember, once you step on stage, is to keep this hand very tightly closed (on this word, Ian opens hand, showing it empty, then shuts it again), because otherwise some of the more astute members of the audience will see the red handkerchief concealed there, and they'll know exactly how the trick is done. So keep this hand closed (opens hand again and shuts it).

So you come on stage, and push the blue handkerchief into the top of your fist. As you do so, you carefully pull the red handkerchief out of the bottom of your fist (does so). Couldn't be simpler, really. Blue one in the top, red one out of the bottom. A little tip, though, if you do decide to do this trick, (which I can see a lot of you probably will) try not to talk too much during it. Because a lot of magicians spoil it with a lot of patter. And it is basically a visual trick. As you can see, the politics comes across visually. You'll notice that I'm doing the opposite of what the bourgeois magician did, going from blue to red in true socialist manner. It's a very politically effective trick, this. Although it's not subtle, I'll admit that. In fact, I could do this trick completely silently, and I would still be making the political point. Actually, there was a time when I used to do this trick, and the rest of the act, without talking at all. But I've had to stop that, because under present government legislation it could be construed as an admission of guilt.

Actually, I could tell you something about this trick. Shall I tell them? Well, they might think... Yes, but they couldn't... on the other hand would they just say... well, I suppose so... all right, I'll tell you. Sorry about that. I was just working out a little internal contradiction there. What I was going to say was that this is, in fact, the trick that I first performed for Fidel Castro. (Pause to let it sink in, then in more confessional tone:) Well, he said he was Fidel Castro. (Pause again. Decide to come clean) Well, what he actually said was, if you're a magician, I'm... Anyway, never show the two handkerchieves separately (does so) because then it's obvious how the trick is done. Just keep pushing that in there, and pull that out there, then you can put the red handkerchief in your pocket, stand back, and wait for the applause (puts hankie in pocket, holds up both hands and shows them empty).




Ian picks up scarf. Waves and flourishes it about stage in an exaggerated series of theatrical gestures, with mock seriousness. Then, breaking and speaking to audience:
I don't know why I do that.

It's got nothing to do with the trick.

Actually, I do know. It is, in fact, a bourgeois flourish, left over from when I was a bourgeois magician. Because I am, internally, a mass of contradictions, some of which emerge during the course of this show, and some of which I'm saving for when we have a socialist government. Which may be some time.
Anyway, I tie a knot in this silk scarf. This knot represents the knotty problems of society. The question is, how do we solve the knotty problems of society. I can see a lot of you wondering that. There are of course magic words, and the magic words, as you've probably already guessed, the magic words are “mass action for a radical transformation of society from a society based primarily on profit to a society based on human need”. So can you all join in after three. In fact I'll leave it up to you. I'll count to three, thus providing the leadership, then you come in with the magic words as the voice of the masses. 1 ... 2 ... 3!

That wasn't very good, though we had a small vanguard section over here. But I can see that for the rest of you we're going to have to simplify it down to one word, which means basically the same thing - “solidarity”.
Here we go. Don't say “here we go” though. We tried that over and over again during the miners' strike, and it didn't work. I'll join in as well this time. 1 ... 2 ... 3 ... Solidarity!

(Slowly ands magically, knot unties itself)

There you are, knotty problems solved.

The act might continue with the CLASS-STRUGGLE ROPE TRICK, the SURPLUS VALUE FACTORY BOX (with the talking silk handkerchief workers), VENTRILOQUISM with a picture of KARL MARX (in which Karl reveals that he originally wanted his theories done as magic tricks), KARL MARX’S CARD PREDICTION TRICK, THE MONEY TRICK (using a borrowed note to show the workings of the money system),THE NEWSPAPER TRICK,
THE VISION (POEM), with perhaps an ENCORE, KARL MARX’S SONG (usually "I'm a little teapot", though he does also offer the audience a choice between that and "The Internationale")