Interview | Shane Gillen | Late Night Magic
Interview by: Caroline Foran
Jeepers. Has it been a month since the first ever Late Night Magic? Well it's that time again where the night like no other takes over Dublin's Sugar Club. Needless to say, the inaugural Late Night Magic went down a treat. Between the intensity of silent performer Joe Daly, the laid back skills of 'magician to the stars' Steve Spade (who has natural comic ability in spades) and the intricacies of host Shane Gillen's set, this was a perfectly balanced variety evening. Ahead of the next big night, I caught up with the man behind the Ireland's exclusive magic event to find out a bit more about him.
I traveled to San Francisco a number of years ago and ended up meeting a Chinese-American man named Joe Pon. Pon is one of the world's master magicians who has worked with the likes of Blaine and Copperfield, and he took me under his wing and mentored me to become a 'magician'.
So you were like The Sorcere's Apprentice then. What did you want to be growing up?
Not fully understanding the concept of 'becoming' something when I was older, I wanted to be Packie Bonner when I grew up. Not the next Packie Bonner, but the actual Packie Bonner, as though I could somehow grow up and morph into him. I was a strange child.
Yeah, you clearly grew out of that. The things you can do with a deck of cards don't make you look strange at all. *winks. Who is your biggest inspiration?
Ah, but Gandalf the Grey or Gandalf the White? Moving on. What's the craziest story you have from your career so far?
I was invited to perform at an event in Queens New York and the event was hosted by Samuel L.Jackson. We were told we were not allowed to bring cameras to the event but when I got there there was an official photographer there anyway. I had performed for Samuel L.Jackson and was getting on with him great as the night went on. The drinks at the bar were entirely free as well, so a culmination of having the craic with Samuel L.Jackson and the free bar led me to decide that I wanted to teach Samuel L.Jackson how to do the moonwalk. I was dancing wildly on the dancefloor and ripped my pants from the inside of the knee all the way up to my inner thigh. Then Samuel came over laughing, I told him I was going to teach him how to do the moonwalk. The official photographer from the night came running over too, so the only existing photos I have of myself and Samuel L.Jackson are ones of me (with ripped pants) showing him how to do the moonwalk.
That's the best crazy story we've heard in a long time. What celebrity was most blown away by your magic?
Denzel Washington. So much so that he bought my girlfriend and I dinner at the time.
OK now I'm jealous. Tell us the story of being invited into Kelsey Grammer's home.
I worked as a Personal Assistant type concierge guy in the building that Kelsey lived in in New York. Denzel lived there too, so I knew both of them pretty well at that stage. I had performed for Denzel and not long after Kelsey heard that I performed magic. He invited me in on my day off to perform for him and my mate Stephen brought a camera along. Casual magic for Kelsey Grammer over a cup of Starbucks, it was pretty awesome. We still keep in touch.
Maybe I can come next time and take photos. Get rid of Stephen. What's the absolute dream for you now?
I was asked this at an event last night. I'm not sure to be honest. I love magic and love performing at various events and parties, but where I really feel a buzz is during my stage shows. I would love to tour Europe doing my stage shows. I'm hugely interested in the concept of perception and the ways in which people can be fooled, I did a TEDx talk last November titled 'The Anatomy of Perception' where I talked about this. I love sharing what I've learned about the human mind, I've been invited to talk in Norway in September and at the huge Unicamp conference in Slovakia in October. I guess I'd love to continue touring stage shows and giving talks.
Sounds cool enough to me. On that subject, how important is magic in Ireland right now?
Ooooh what a question. You know, the only reason Houdini became such an icon was that he related culturally to the people around him. A Hungarian son of a Rabbi whose name was actually Erik Weisz, Houdini was always the underdog. He changed his name to Houdini and began performing daring escapes. America was going through a time of general unease and unrest due to the Great Depression - and Houdini gave them a symbol of hope - this underdog escaping from any constraints set in place by a structured order (usually police) became a symbol of the average underdog escaping and rising above the Great Depression. Maybe we could apply that to Ireland in a more contemporary sense - we're in a time of recession, unrest and unease in Ireland at the moment. There is a stir in right-wing political structures and we are seeing more and more 'Occupy' so and so protest groups. If 'magic' - in its fullest sense - an artform to inspire creation, can do anything whatsoever to speak to the unease in Ireland right now or inspire or even create an escape - then I guess it's that which makes it important. Bit of a wordy answer, but there you go!
Wordy yet informative. Where do you see it going?
With the advent of social media and social networking over the last number of years it is more and more easy for younger performers to connect with and communicate with other magicians. I can see a surge in magic culturally, with the likes of Dynamo and Penn & Teller back on screens in the UK and the interest in Ireland in anything I've been doing lately has been growing tenfold. So I would assume that as long as performers continue to keep their effects new and contemporary and topical, magic in Ireland is on the rise. That's why my Production Manager John Belling and I decided to launch 'Late Night Magic' that will run monthly in The Sugar Club - testament to the popularity of magic in Ireland right now. The sold-out house at our launch night last month was awesome.
You're usually the one blowing people away, who has most impressed you that you've met, magic wise?
Charlie Caper. Charlie is a Swedish magician who I saw in Dublin at the World Street Performers Festival a number of years back. The guy blew my mind. He has since gone on to win Sweden's Got Talent.
Have you ever seen any magic tricks go horrifically wrong?
Yes, including my own! Cringe...
What does a night like yours bring to the Dublin night life scene?
Late Night Magic offers something unlike anything else that is happening in Dublin right now. The 'variety' show idea fizzled out in Dublin in the 70s and never really came back, though it's enjoyed a resurgence in the UK. It's a night out/cabaret style show - it's entirely informal and the audience should never feel like they're at a theatre show where they have to sit still and be quiet. Our night offers them the chance to see some of Ireland's finest performers in an intimate setting at an affordable price, while still enjoying having the craic and having drinks with their friends.
What can the uninitiated expect?
Expect a gathering of 4 - 5 magicians, each entirely different and no corny magic. Expect to have your minds blown, opened or inspired. It's a very funny night, very informal and a good laugh all around. You can also have the chance to learn some tricks in the Parlour Room too and partake in games of 'Beat-the-Magician' where you can even try to figure out how the trick is achieved!
With that inspiring endorsement, head over yonder to our ticketing section and book them before they sell out!
Story by EI Team | 09:00 | Thursday 10th May 2012 | Theatre
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