If you would like to read the beginning of Ian's cabaret act, you can find the words here.

The text of The Vision, a poem from the shows, is here.

From this page you can also download the scripts for some of Ian's full-length shows, in pdf format. Of course, the magic tricks are just described, but the texts give an idea of the theatrical structure:

Brecht on Magic. The first full-length Socialist Magic show. Originally performed in 1985, revived many times since then. Winner of the Fringe Review Award 2007.
Ian Saville begins the transformation from bourgeois to socialist conjurer, with the help of 3 Gods from Brecht's play The Good Person of Sichuan and a grumpy ventriloquist's dummy of the playwright himself.
 "You have found out how to conjure up a most credible Brecht. Much more successfully than many Brecht experts are able to do. And as a complex demonstration of Verfremdung (or Alienation? Or what? You name it) your dialogues with him could hardly be bettered. This really is magic. You make us laugh and think. What more could BB ask?"  John Willett, Brecht scholar and translator.
Download here.


Silhouette of Ian with Brecht and William MorrisGetting Nowhere - Again. Saville and Bertolt Brecht are joined by socialist visionary William Morris in a search for the Socialist Utopia.
Download here




 Left Luggage. Addressing the difficulties for the left in a time of change. Characters include Lenin as a disembodied head, Rosa Luxemburg and Saville's soul, in the form of a talking onion.
Download here



Red Players performing "Meerut"Honourable Flags. Ian's play set in the 1930s and 2002. Informed by Ian's research on Workers' Theatre, this play, partly in verse, explores the nature of theatre and its role in political change. Rehearsed reading by students at E15 acting school, and presentation at a conference on political theatre, but no professional production yet. Open to offers.
Download here








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")



The Vision - A Poem from the Shows



This poem (apart from the first seven lines, and with a slightly different ending) first appeared in Getting Nowhere - Again. It then worked its way into the Cabaret Act, and also into the later versions of Brecht on Magic. I've had many requests for copies from people who have heard it, and it has been recited at weddings, funerals, and even a secular barmitzvah. You are welcome to use it at your event, or just to read it for your own pleasure. Let me know what you think of it.

[Fist emerging from top hat holding wand with red stars]"The world has changed," they said, "all your ideals
Mean nothing now, they won't buy any meals.
Hard cash is what we live by, and our mission
Is beat the others, win the competition.
Our system rules this planet, always will"
They blustered and they bullied me until
I quite forgot - why was I Socialist? ...
... Then in the distance I saw a mist
And the mist turned into a cloud.
And as I stood and watched, each drop           
Of vapour turned into a face.  The crowd
Moved around me in laughter and song    
With eyes that were bright and voices strong            
Each face separate and distinct.        
Though all in common purpose linked.    
But who were these people?  Somehow I knew              
That if only I guessed, my guess would be true.         
And so I decided that one band of figures
From centuries past were Winstanley's diggers           
Proclaiming all folk were of equal worth
To share in the treasures of the Earth. 
Some Luddites were holding a great hammer high          
They'd been slandered by history, but I could see why   
They'd set about smashing their masters' machines       
Which were not tools of progress, but used as a means   
To steal from these people their labour and skill      
And ensure they were bent to their masters' will.       
Some faces I knew - Paul Robeson was giving             
Full voice to a tune that said Joe Hill was living.     
Joe smiled, and agreed that in each mine and mill    
Where the workers were fighting his spirit lived still. 
Mary Seacole was resting from easing the pain           
Of those men sent to die so their rulers might gain.    
She's forgotten by history - her skin wasn't pale    
Though she healed just as surely as Nurse Nightingale.       
Harriet Tubman rejoiced with the slaves that she'd freed
From those 'civilised' gentlemen driven by greed.       
From Central America, no more invisible 
Those who vanished from lands where dissent's not permissible.          
Karen Silkwood, who died fighting nuclear might.         
Blair Peach - killed by police for supporting the right 
To protest against fascism.  Others who'd died          
Fighting fascist battalions in Spain's countryside.     
There was Sacco, Vanzetti.  There were Suffragettes too. 
There were miners and matchgirls, and some people who   
Had been friends of mine.  They died with much still to give
But they'd all used their lives to find new ways to live.
Gazing in awe on this great panorama    
I wondered what part it could play in my drama.         
Then, as I wondered, they all spoke in chorus:
"There's something," they said "that we'd quite like done for us
"We are dead, and our life's work is not yet fulfilled
For we all tried, in some different manner, to build
A world that is decent and honest and fair
Where we all get what's needed, and what's left we share
But the world is not like that - that's clear and that's plain
And we're not blaming you, but don't make it in vain
That we lived lives of struggle - continue the fight
While you live, you can change things - we know that that's right."
And I looked, and I saw that in each of their eyes
Stood a part of a new world, and to my surprise
I could now see what they saw, and so understood
We become fully human by working for good.
We may fail, but it's better to know that we've been
A part of humanity - not a machine.
My strength was redoubled, my hope was renewed
As I shared in the vision of these comrades who'd
Bequeathed us their talent, their wisdom, their love
And the knowledge that our deeds can make the world move.
In my original performance, the poem continued from "not a machine" with the lines:
I stood there renewed, thinking "no, life's not tragic"
Then they piped up again and said "Show us some magic"

I then did a magic trick in which a representative of the bourgeoisie (originally Margaret Thatcher)  and a nuclear missile were made to vanish in a red box representing socialism and internationalism.