Mada's touch

Adam MadaMagic's not exactly a common pursuit in Australia… What I want to do is totally stay away from any typical magic. I want people to assume that magic is just normal. It's not the same as elsewhere in the world, especially in live performances: we're just not up to date on Europe, there's so many venues to perform in, whereas in Sydney, you really have to sell yourself to venues and functions. It's a lot of hard work to get yourself out there and really, I only get booked by being seen somewhere.  

Well, when people talk about magicians here there's that image of a guy in a top hat sawing a woman in half - which is wildly different to what you do. Actually, I sought this documentary out, which I just ordered today: it's called Women in Boxes. It's about women in boxes being chopped up through the ages. In fact, the whole sawing a woman in half came about in 1921 by a guy called PT Selbit. It was the time of female suffrage, and suddenly men are chopping them up in stage – and that's why in the 20s this illusion was so popular. Hundreds of thousands of people are flocked to the stadiums to see this happen, and now it's just irrelevant and outdated.

Do social mores still influence the illusions of contemporary performers?
 They do, yes. A contemporary example would be where you got [US magician] David Blaine staving himself in a perspex box above the Thames, which makes comment on body and self and suffering. Stuff like that is more of an endurance stunt, where it's actually real: there's some trickery involved but it's a large scale stunt that harkens back to the Houdini heyday.

Is that something you'd like to see more of? I really wish that magic could get involved in politics a little bit more. Recently I got involved with this online doco with an ABC journalist where using magic as a parable with the AWB scandal, comparing the techniques of their lawyers and relationships between the AWB and certain facets of the government, in terms of misdirection and how to hide things, how to focus attention elsewhere.

One would need a pretty decent understanding of human psychology to do what you do: not just to be able to fool people but to be able to read people enough to know how to fool them. Oh yeah: every magic trick is basically psychology. Group dynamics have always fascinated me, the way that to manipulate a group is much easier than one person once you get them into a herd situation. With the style of performance that I'm presenting, particularly if it's with a small group of people at an event, say, what I might focus on is relationships between those people: not all of them will know each other, so getting people who have met for the first time, focusing on common events, doing the chatting and talking. All these connections are fascinating and that really where the magic comes from. It's not the trick they remember in the end: they'll remember the relationships and the dynamics.

Adam Mada performs every Friday and Saturday at Tharens Manor, Kings Cross and each Sunday at El Circo @ Slide. He also performs a show at De Nom on Thu 7 May: Mada vs Vegas: Duelling Magicians.

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First published on 3 Apr 2009. Updated on 5 May 2009.

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