Welcome to the Fabulous Wayne Dobson & Friends by Wayne Dobson
Reviewed by Jamy Ian Swiss (originally published in Genii January, 2013)
If you don't know who Wayne Dobson is by now, well, where the hell have you been? The veteran comedy magic creator and performer, though physically constrained by advancing medical challenges, continues his commercial output with a new book. With this outing, instead of con-fining himself to his own creations, Mr. Dobson is joined by a number of his friends and colleagues in the magic community offering their own contributions. By and large, much of the material reasonably reflects Mr. Dobson's consistent tastes for real-world material that smacks of practicality and commercial appeal.
The paperback volume is nicely produced by Magic seen magazine, printed on quality paper and featuring attractive full-page half-tone black-and-white photographs of each contributor. And that list of contributors will be well recognized by readers on both sides of the pond, including as it does material from at least 20 contemporary magicians, including the Davids Regal, Stone, and Williamson, John Archer, Eugene Burger, Jeff McBride, Kevin James, Max Maven, Andy Nyman, and many more. Several more include endorsements and commentaries, and there is also material from past masters Patrick Page (one of Mr. Dobson's most important mentors and collaborators) and the legendary Ken Brooke.
The book begins with an enjoyable if brief seven-page overview of the author's life, along with a nice scrapbook assortment of photos. (I encourage you to read his autobiography, Star Struck, which was included in the book WD40 [reviewed earlier in Genii]). Mr. Dobson then contributes two lead-off tricks, and they are very good ones. They are also distinctly representative of Mr. Dobson's current abilities and strengths, as they require no physical skills to speak of, but reflect smart magical thinking and utilize decidedly advanced performance skills. "The Unnamed Card," a card trick that in the right hands can play for a gigantic audience is ... well, too good to describe here. The next trick is essentially a version of Vernon's "Trick That Cannot Be Explained" in which the magician does not handle the cards.
Elsewhere, Bill Abbott elaborates on a previously published Dobson routine in which the magician presents a spectator (or client!) with a celebratory bottle of champagne, with the just-named date of a celebrated event (like an anniversary or birthday) inscribed on the label. The routine ends with the kicker vanish of a second bottle.
David Regal provides a detailed presentation for "The Moving Pencil," a marvelous if largely forgotten trick from Harry Lorayne's neo-classic, Close-Up Card Magic. This is a great lesson, and if the trick is new to you it will serve as a revelation. David Williamson provides a variant of the Edward G. Brown spelling trick that he's been using for a long time, with a lovely nuance that allows the trick to begin with the spectator shuffling the deck and removing the necessary cards himself. (I am also fond of Bob White's version of this routine, and the Williamson idea can easily be applied with any variant. And if you don't know the Brown trick, it might be time for you to discover it.)
Eugene Burger provides a smart and evocative presentation for the excellent if obscenely popular bill routine, "Extreme Burn," that provides a sorely needed solution to the serious theatrical problem of returning the bills to their original denomination. He also offers some opening commentary that may serve as kindness of a sort for paying students but is bound to be abused as an excuse for laziness by those who will happily ignore his final two paragraphs. (Mr. Burger had it right the first time, many years ago, in the pages of this very magazine.)
Gregory Wilson provides several tricks, one of them a trick in which an Invisible Deck is used to perform a "Triumph" effect with a thought-of card, and in which the rough-and-smooth element is utilized to provide a convincing "Triumph" display. His only contribution to this excellent idea is the addition of a Jerry Andrus Slop Shuffle handling which, oddly enough, he credits. Less oddly, he credits nothing else. However, as mentioned in the above review of The Trapdoor, the fundamental credit for this goes to Steve Bedwel I, and further details of its history can be found in his trick in The Trapdoor, first published there in 1996 and then subsequently in 1998 in the video, MD Not Required.
Another of Mr. Dobson's early influences was the great performer and magic dealer, Ken Brooke. I will forever feel deprived by the fact that I never met him, but in my youth I pored over his catalog descriptions and distinctively voiced instructional sheets, extracting every bit of wisdom I could, and there was plenty there to find. After Mr. Dobson provides a personal reminiscence, Derek Lever contributes an excellent multi-phase sponge ball routine, along with two card routines, all described in that memorable Brooke manner.
The noted British magic dealer/demonstrator, Mark Mason, offers "Foot and Mouth." This is one of those quick but multi-climax card tricks that pros invariably develop for themselves, especially for walk-around work, and that often become the pet trick they never leave out or never fail to open with. It may read as pedestrian, but this is the kind of fundamental piece that every worker needs in their repertoire; veterans will already have their own but if you're just starting out, pay attention.
The book concludes with "The Case of the Missing Diamonds." This is a very simple card trick that, with the addition of some lighting and costume and a very elaborately punning script, I have no doubt Mr. Dobson invariably killed audiences with. I enjoyed reading it because I enjoyed imagining it in his voice, with his impeccable comic timing. Not only do I find it all but impossible to imagine another performer using this piece effectively, I cringe at the thought of being forced to watch the attempt.
There are a few contributions here that may not measure up to the standouts, including some of the opinion pieces, but the valuable material far outshines these few flaws and renders them unworthy of further attention here. Although perhaps a bit pricey for the size and scope, for what could have been just another random collection of tricks, I'm impressed at the quality of thought-provoking lessons along with real-work material contained in these pages.