Magic – good magic – takes everything you rationally know to be true and stashes it away into a little locked box for as long as you’ll leave it there. Billy Reid snatches your sense of what’s possible and tickles it under the chin. If I can do this, he teases, the very least you can do is dream about what you could achieve if you try.
Reid is a magician and three times finalist at the Magic Circle’s Close-up Magician of the Year competition. A year into the professional circuit, his show, Storyteller is a skip through his life from childhood when he listened to the rain pattering on the ceiling and realised that the sun could make its own magic on a rainy day. Through his attention-seeking teenage years. To his boldest flourish yet: leaving a regular pay check to take his magic show on the road.
Reid’s show is based around cards and mind reading, knitted together with these snapshots from his life. But the thing that elevates it from a run of the mill routine is his gloriously vivid sense of colour. This isn’t just magic: it’s magic in technicolour. From the rainbow that illuminates the start of the show through to Vincent Van Gogh via the easel that takes pride of place on the stage throughout. His hand-illustrated card deck is so quirky and beautiful that it’s easy to forget the glorious story-telling unfolding in front of you. Oh, and the tricks are brilliant. Even a front row seat didn’t reveal his method.
His set is nicely orchestrated, with a discrete camera trained from above on his card table, allowing the audience to scrutinise his sleight-of-hand. Careful lighting and a (mostly!) neatly controlled and nicely jaunty soundtrack created just the right mix of mystery and audience interaction. And the set along with Reid’s discretely tartaned suit, do a great job of reinforcing that this guy is a home-grown magician, destined, I suspect, for great things.
The Storytelling Centre is a cracking venue for the Magic Festival. Small enough to ensure the whole audience have a pretty clear view of the stage, big enough to get you a proper lighting rig and technical support. It’s great to see it housing so many of this week’s events.
Art and artistry aside, Reid is a captivating performer with a West Coast easy charm. His stories give the set a robust backdrop that’s full of heart (Caledonia makes the eyes prickle). He clearly wasn’t boasting when he said he wasn’t bad at art at school. He has a clear vision for the role of magic in a cynical world. And he tells you just enough to leave you rooting for him. If his attempt to make money as a magician fails, he says disarmingly, he at least wants to know that he created something beautiful.
He kicks off the show (offstage – which becomes significant later) with a quote from Morgan Freeman: “a man’s secrets are the only possessions he will take to the grave.” I’d be pretty chuffed to take his.