The Story of Parlour Tricks
By Andi Gladwin - Friday, March 13, 2020
Every magic book tells a different story. Sometimes it's a story about a particular magician, and other times it's about a collection of tricks, but, to my knowledge, there has never been a magic book that contains the complete story of a magic show in the way that Parlour Tricks does. It contains the methods, the scripts, and detailed discussions on the decisions made and lessons learned from performing a full evening magic show for five years in the UK.
From the moment you enter the theatre, it is clear that Morgan and West have defined their aesthetic. Their set is from the Victorian era, the background music is perfectly chosen, and the two performers are in the audience, making conversation over their microphones in quaint British voices that match their surroundings. These spiffing caps know who they are and how they are perceived by their audience, and our challenge at Vanishing Inc. was to find a way to take that from the stage to the page.
We could have just used a standard layout or design, but we wanted to create a book that felt part of the Morgan and West legacy. A book that belonged on a coffee table, not a bookshelf, yet one that would also allow the reader to see the full show and understand why it was put together.
The process worked backwards to how most people might expect. We started by hiring a theatre and recording the show over two nights. Normally the show would be the final piece of the puzzle, but it was so integral to the package we had in mind that it was vital that we allowed the show to lead the project. Once the show was edited, the whole Vanishing Inc. team could understand what we were aiming to produce could we start discussions on how to translate what the audience saw into what you might eventually read.
Fast forward two years and Morgan and West have finished the text and now the layout and photographing begins. Writing a book is a slow process and we like to give our authors time to breathe. We never rush this stage, to carefully describe not only their routines but their thinking behind them.
The photography required another trip to the theatre. Vanishing Inc.'s own photography hero, George Luck (who also designed the perfectly-fitting cover) has been part of the project since the start and so developed an aesthetic and colour tone that perfectly matched the era that Morgan and West are inspired by. We took over 2,500 photographs over a two-day shoot to ensure that we captured the intricate nature of performing an entire show. We took performance shots, close-ups of the methods, and even captured much of the show from backstage.
But in order to make those photos shine, we had to find the perfect paper stock that wouldn't mute the photos. It took over ten samples, but we finally found a paper manufacturer that was able to create an aged, off-white stock that would keep the detail in the photographs and make the text easy to read. It would have been easier and cheaper to use an off-the-shelf paper, but it wouldn't have felt like an authentic part of the experience.
Our end goal was to create a book that looked like it could be used as a prop within their show and I'm proud to say that we achieved that and that Parlour Tricks, the book, has become an integral part of telling the Morgan and West story.