While teaching and performing my magic in Italy last week I was reminded of the fact that magic truly is an international language. The night before I was due to fly home, I presented a short show at a dinner party – all of the guests were native Italians and few spoke any English at all.
While I have lectured in Italy in the past, it’s been a long time since I’ve attempted to speak the language, so fortunately I had a friend at the party who was happy to translate.
When the time came to do my show, I was also reminded that having to pause after each sentence, for the translation, completely breaks the flow and the timing of some of the effects and, as the cliché goes, timing is everything!
Several of my routines make use of an über useful strategy, known as the off-beat, but this simply does not work when the pacing is directed by someone other than the performer.
After a couple of tricks, I signalled to my friend to stop and I carried on in English and some simple Italian phrases that I could remember. It worked much, much better. I was able to finish the show successfully and I could tell from the reactions that everything was pretty much understood.
Next time I’m in this situation, I’ll try to remember that while some tricks require narrative to make the effect or meaning clear, many do not – the magic simply speaks for itself!