Interview with Magician Marc Oberon

February 2008

Marc-OberonAlthough I had seen Marc Oberon win the close-up competition at the IBM convention in Eastbourne in 2006 with his Midas routine, mystify the crowd watching close-up at Blackpool with his Bang On trick and wow South Shields at the Tyneside convention with his Ultra-Violet show, as well as an amazing levitation, I had never actually spoken to him until later on at that South Shields convention, 2007, at his dealer’s stand.

I bought Bang On because it seemed relatively easy to do and creates a very memorable effect, and I wanted something impressive to work on. Marc was kind and patient and spent a long time explaining to me how it all works. At the end of the convention, I was sitting by myself and Marc came up and asked me how I was finding Bang On and whether the instructions on his DVD were clear. I was deeply flattered by this but I remained calm, as if I was accustomed to being approached and having my advice sought by famous magicians. I said I hadn’t been able to watch the DVD yet but that I would let him know if I thought it was clear.

When I got home, I tried to make up Bang On but actually found the DVD not as clear as it might be. I e-mailed Marc and offered to write more detailed instructions for him. This led to our becoming friends and my subsequently also writing the book that now accompanies the Master Deck.

I interviewed Marc for WeLoveMagic the week before the Blackpool convention, at my language school in south Manchester.

Georgie:  Thank you for taking time out to do this interview, Marc. I know you’re very busy, with gigs all this week, then the convention, and a lecture tour of America coming up.

Marc:  It’s a great pleasure. In fact, it’s an honour to be one of the first magicians featured on your website. Thank you for asking me.

Georgie:  You’re quite an unusual magician, I think, in that you seem to be equally interested in and good at close-up and stage magic. Can you tell us a bit about that, which came first and whether you actually prefer one to the other?

Marc:  I don’t prefer one or the other, I enjoy them both. Certainly the stage came first… I like close-up that plays big. Any material that I do for a table of four or ten, I would also be able to work in front of an audience of a hundred or possibly a few more than a hundred.

If something’s a one-on-one effect, I’m not really that interested in it, to be honest, but I suppose technically that’s what close-up is, an effect done so close up that only one person can see it. I like the crowd to build, as the material goes along. I do trade shows, where the key point is to invite people in and draw a crowd, and I feel a bit the same about close-up. I start with an effect for one or two people, which would play small, but then I get more and more people involved and do larger effects.

Georgie:  Does that always work? I mean, shouldn’t you be a bit more discreet at something like a wedding?

Marc:  Well, I know a lot of magicians at a reception do hit ones and twos with a quick trick and then move on but once I get into the flow of it, I find it hard to walk away. If I can see people are really into it, I just want to carry on. And I think it’s a measure of the success of the magic that people go “Wow!” and grab a person nearby to watch what’s happening, so a crowd just builds.

What I like about stage is that you’ve got more control and you know you won’t be interrupted. In close-up, there’s often a waiter who barges in right at the climax of your trick, or there’s a couple who haven’t seen their relatives for a long time… But then it’s fun sometimes in close-up to feel that you’ve conquered an awkward situation. You’ve gone in with no status, it’s not your occasion, but by the end everybody thinks you’re great!

I really like rifling through the whole lot of people at a party, doing close-up, and at the end of it knowing that I’ve worked the whole room. I get a real buzz from it; it’s like a drug, really. I enjoy that more than if I just went to the party with a group of friends… The thing that I love about magic is the acceptance – magic temporarily provides access to different groups of people. I’ve done magic for politicians, accountants, schoolteachers, criminals, aristocracy, all sorts of people… I enjoy the fact that I’m an outsider and I’m not part of any of these groups; I like the relative solitude. But it allows me to connect with lots of people I would never ordinarily meet. It gives me a good, wide experience of people – a bit like in your job, teaching and running a language school, you must meet lots of different people.

Georgie:  Absolutely. It’s one of the aspects I particularly enjoy too. You’ve won a lot of prestigious awards, Marc. Since you are such a busy and successful magician, performing all over the world all the time, why do you choose to focus on going in for competitions?

Marc:  For two reasons, I suppose. Winning competitions is good for my profile and for work generally but, equally importantly, entering a competition sharpens my game. The first competition I went in for was just to push myself, really; winning genuinely wasn’t my primary motivation. I learnt a huge amount from the experience – it really does work – and I upped my game a lot. And nowadays I do really want to win but I would prefer to know that my act has improved than to win with an act that’s just OK.

Georgie:  That sounds very noble. Is it true?

Marc:  OK, I’d be sick if I didn’t win.


Georgie:  Have you got any advice for people preparing to enter a competition?

Marc:  First of all, you need to have performed in front of real people as many times as possible. I would actually create audiences, I would ask someone, “Look, can you help me? Can you get ten people round to your house? I’m going to do a show”. There’s no substitute for practising in front of a live audience, just to gauge their reactions, what works and what doesn’t work. And ask for feedback. Some insightful comments can make a big difference.

Georgie:  Are you good at taking criticism?

Marc:  Yeah, I’m all right, actually, I’m OK. But the timing has to be right. And I never expose myself to the sort of criticism that might hurt me, by never showing anything that’s not ready. A new idea is like a baby, it can’t fend for itself yet, and I would, when it’s stronger, I would show it first to people that I know will be positive and encouraging. When my confidence about the idea has strengthened, I’ll go on to show it to people who might be more cynical.

Georgie:  So your main advice is to practise in front of real people?

Marc:  Yes, that’s right, and another thing is eye contact. You’ve got to be regularly looking at the audience. If it’s a large audience and there’s a camera there, think about looking at the camera too. If two thirds of the people are going to be watching you on the screen, you need to spend two thirds of your time looking into the camera. If you get someone up to help you, it’s a common mistake to talk only to them – you need to keep the rest of the audience involved as well.

Actually, this is important in close-up too. You must address the whole group, not just one person.

If someone looks at you, it energises you, in a way. It’s really important to connect with the audience, to engage everyone. This makes them all feel involved and they’re more likely to remember you; it automatically gives you a charismatic presence.

Georgie:  That’s very useful. Now, how would you describe yourself as a magician? What makes you different from everybody else?

Marc:  Oh, that’s a tough question! Hmmm. Well, my idea of a magician is not defined by what I read in a magic magazine or on a magic forum. I try to tune in to the archetypal idea of a magician, to think about what seems really magical to an audience and to give it a story. This is what I’ve tried to achieve with my Midas routine and with the Wizard, that spacey, glow-in-the-dark character in my Ultra-Violet show. And I hope there’ll be others.

Georgie:  Following on from that… I was having breakfast with Steve Cohen in New York the other day (I had to get that line in!) and he was saying that he has become his character of the Millionaire’s Magician. He always dresses smartly, even if he’s just going to the supermarket – he always looks and behaves like a magician. Do you feel like that?

Marc:  Jeff McBride, who I really admire, he’s like that too. Um, no. I don’t feel like that. Yes, I am a magician, it’s not just something I do. In fact, when I’m out shopping, even just in the supermarket, I’m always looking for things that will inspire me to make magic. But no, I don’t think about looking like a magician. Actually, I think of myself as being invisible, like a chameleon, I blend in. When I need to be seen, I will be.

Georgie:  Does that connect to why you always wear black?

Marc:  I do like the colour black. Partly because it’s easy – when I get up in the morning I don’t have to think – but mainly it’s for these two reasons. There’s a dark side to my character, which I quite frankly enjoy, and the black represents that. The other thing is that black is like the sky at night, a space in which something can show up, a blank canvas on which I can create something.

You can read more about Marc, and watch some short videos of him performing, on his website: