TURNING to an old friend to ask about this money business.
I CAN see future generations of school students wrestling with the exam question: 'Had Dr.Ian Saville travelled north of the border with his magic show ten years earlier, might he not have taught Gordon Brown a few tricks and thereby saved a lot of suffering in the British economy? Discuss'.
Alas, though Dr.Saville has been to Edinburgh before, his new act concerning "Money Magic" comes too late to save us from austerity, though Chancellors past and present should envy his ability to produce money from thin air with ease (they already know how to make it disappear the other way). The rest of us can appreciate the way Ian demystifies such baffling wonders as the derivation of derivatives, as well as affording us a good laugh from the 'dismal science', at a time when there is not a lot to laugh about.
I've been delighting at Ian Saville's magic tricks for more years than I care to remember. The first time I think was when he helped us unwind after a conference in Mill Lane community centre, near Cricklewood ( I forget the year but a couple who met there now have two sons both uni graduates and performing themselves in different ways). I still marvel at how the "Marxist Magician" manages to deconstruct a broadsheet newspaper -well, actually tear it to shreds before my very eyes, me being seated right up close, -and then open it up again intact, while chattering away to the audience.
Another trick that I found impressive involved getting someone to 'phone a number taken from the 'phonebook seemingly at random, and finding the person at the other end able to accurately describe cards and numbers concealed this end. This was performed in a back garden in Brent, and involved the co-operation of some kids - who, as every magician knows are the hardest audience to kid and first to spot a slip that would be missed by us more pliant adults.
I'm sure incidentally that along with healthier politics, it's those garden parties with great food from members and entertainment from Ian Saville among others that have kept Brent Stop the War going long after the national body has declined and dwindled.
Since Ian has dedicated so much of his time and skills to performing free for benefits, for union and left-wing causes, I am pleased to see he now has a daytime job as university lecturer to supplement the family income. That Doctorate by the way is genuine - in Political Theatre History. He is also a card-carring member of the Magic Circle of course, and has travelled with such well-known entertainers as Mark Steel and Julian Clary, as well as joining Peggy Seeger and Leon Rosselson in the Anticapitalist Roadshow.
It was at Middlesex University's Hendon campus that I caught a preview of Ian's new act recently, the one he is taking to Edinburgh, on his first return since 2004, and judging from the full crowd and appreciation from both old friends and new, it should aye go well with the folk in Auld Reekie.
"Ian's new show revolves around money, explaining the illusions of the banking system in a way that only a magician can. Money appears and disappears, transforms itself and changes its value in a tour de force of creative accounting.
And, of course, money talks."
In this time of austerity and cuts, with inflation outstripping wages, you will be relieved to find that even if you have only a little money, you can still enjoy Ian’s show. Ian will be part of the splendid free festival, where audiences pay no admission fee, but can contribute what they can afford (if they liked the show) on the way out. As well as consulting our old friend Karl, who has enjoyed a well-earned comeback in recent years, but admits he can't make much sense of contemporary capitalism, Ian turns to his financial adviser, Eric, when the latter can spare time from advising other anxious clients on the 'phone - "Buy! Buy! No, not bye-bye'.
Eric, who will be accompanying Ian to Edinbugh, also has a bit of history. He last visited the city in 1968, when he travelled with “The Great De Sevia”, a travelling magician and children’s entertainer. Restored by Ian after some years in a suitcase, the dummy was made by Len Insull, the foremost craftsman of this art in the 1950s and 1960s. Insull was the artist who made Peter Brough’s dummy “Archie Andrews”, whose radio show (yes, a ventriloquist on the radio!) in the 1950s attracted an audience of 15 million, myself among them. Archie not only helped Brough make a living but assisted several other stars on their way - I remember Max Bygraves, Beryl Reid and Tony Hancock among them.
Insull also made “Lord Charles”, Ray Alan’s dummy who was a regularr on TV from the 1960s to 80s. So Eric is a brother to these illustrious characters.
As well as his adult show, Ian will be performing his acclaimed children’s show,Something in My Shoe, every day (Except Mondays) at noon. More information about Ian and his other shows can be found at www.redmagic.co.uk