Treading the boards

Alisdair Chisholm crosses the line in his latest gig – so what next?

Last month – a full week before Eclipse Day so I can’t blame that – I crossed a line and I am not entirely sure that I know the way back. I might not even look.

Funny really, because the particular line has always been pretty clear to me and I have explained it plenty enough times to have it down pat.

I talk about motivation, and I use magic – and dangerous stunts, hypnotism, mentalism, game shows, stories, challenges and all that kind of good stuff – to get my points across in a memorable way.

So, I am someone who speaks, and writes, about motivation. Not a magician, not a hypnotist, not a stuntman.

So, I was a bit surprised with what I came up with for the Village Hall gig. It is the third year running I have done this particular gig, and it is pretty much the same couple of hundred villagers who come each year, so I needed something new, and, in truth, I was struggling.

The talk I am killing has done well over the last couple of years, over 250 gigs, but I am bored to death with it and the villagers have seen it twice already, so all in all it has to go.

It is just hard to come up with something really new.

It requires hours and hours of doodling on my Rhodia A3 DotPad with my Sharpie pen, blue ink, and many more hours making espresso after espresso, going out to smoke whatever I can get my hands on, with a little bit of time set aside to stare at the wall. Really, a whole lot of doing nothing at all.

Then, wired with caffeine and various forms of nicotine, I walked over to my work table, picked up the pen and wrote, in big, block capitals – THE MAGIC, THE GROWN UP MAGIC SHOW THAT WILL CHANGE YOUR WORLD. A few hours later and it was all done. So, there it was, a big step, over that line like it wasn’t even there, practically drawn in blood with my own hand. I was now a magician, with claims to change the world.

A couple of days later, most of it spent learning and rehearsing some pretty serious magic stuff, and I am there, in the Village Hall, putting the finishing touches to my simple set – a talented friend has put it together, for a sixpence, to look like an old fashioned magic shop, and it works. I stand back stage, with a cold, black Starbucks coffee that I bought a hundred miles away, and I am still not entirely sure that I am doing the right thing, but I am doing it anyway.

Then, I go for my pre-gig walk and as I stroll around the village pond, sipping cold coffee and smoking a menthol cigarette – my latest attempt to quit involves only smoking cigarettes I hate – and I remember something important, and all is well. I am suddenly happy, loved up and ready to go, and five minutes later I am back, on the little stage, storming it, I like to think.

The show is a hit, according to the 200 people who paid £7 a head, although they tell me this down the pub afterwards, and I am buying most of them drinks with my easy earned fee, their ticket money, so they are not the reliable source, necessarily. I buy a Monte Cristo No 1 cigar – it is just about the swankiest pub I have ever been in, with fine cigars and £100 glasses of whisky – and take my leave quietly, a vanishing man.

Driving home, smoking as much of the Monte Cristo as I can bear, I think about the night, and about what I remembered that made it all ok. I remembered my goal, year after year, since I started out, simple and unchanging – to talk to as many people as possible about motivation. I realised that is exactly what I am doing, in whatever guise. So, speaker, trainer, tinker, tailor or magician, I really couldn’t care less. I am doing the thing I want to do, and I know that makes me one of the lucky few.

I am home, back at the castle by the sea, by midnight, emptying fistfuls of dollars – five and ten pound notes, actually – from my pockets onto the table, thinking how rare and lovely it is to have a cash gig. Then I am sweeping the cash aside to make room for my oversized pad, finding a pen with blue ink, turning to a fresh, blank page. Now

I have crossed the line, what else can I do?

Change your world, at the very least.

Good fortune.


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