Ask any magician, what is the oldest trick in the world, and
they’ll probably name the cups and balls. For many magicians, the cups and balls are the alpha and the omega
of magic. The same simple props can entertain a large theatre full of people, and most practitioners will
know the sheer joy of producing four large final loads in a close up environment. Much has been written on
the subject, careers have been made from it, and yet so many magicians still slavishly follow Dai Vernon’s
routine. It’s a pity, since the Professor’s version, while fine in itself, is just that: it’s his version.
And so, it was with some considerable pleasure that I watched Brian Watson’s meticulous offering on this
classical piece of magic.
This is very much Watson’s version, and for that alone he has my
admiration. From the spoken preamble, which is a piece of art in itself, to the fourth final load, it is
clear that this routine has been constructed from the bottom up; it is architecturally sound, if you will.
The DVD’s and book do not just deal with the mechanics of the routine, but go into exceptional detail
regarding both the psychology and choreography of the trick.
This is a package for grown ups, or rather, for ‘grown up
thinkers’, which could well include more mature youngsters, and may exclude certain adult magicians. Watson’s
background is in psychotherapy and hypnosis, and his thinking draws on the work of the late Milton
Erickson. Much of the ‘work’ here is actually getting the audience into an appropriate state before the trick
even begins. This process of ‘indirect hypnotic induction’ is a technique that could feed into all of one’s
performances, and the discourse on moods and states is highly significant for the thinking performer. This
might have some people scratching their heads, but for me, Watson’s teaching on this subject is one of the
high points of the DVD’s. Along with his opening sequence…
Ah yes, it’s time to get down to brass tacks. The opening sequence
is delightful; the balls appear one by one, without the magician seeming to do anything at all. As magicians,
we are usually best at fooling ourselves, and we so often mistake something that looks clever for something
that looks magical. In this case, Watson’s opening sequence is actually what magic looks like: effortless.
The routine continues in the same vein; it is a concise piece of art, pared down to the essential elements.
There is no wand used, no faux explanations à la Vernon, no juggling or gymnastics. This is a carefully
considered piece of theatre, and the owner of this book and DVD set will be treated to an in depth analysis
of not only the ‘how’, but more importantly the ‘why’.
But as to the ‘how’. Watson treats us to a new sleight. It’s a
very deceptive move, which is thoroughly explained. The only thing lacking is a name; I suggest the ‘Watson
Roll’, although I daresay he will be too modest to take me up on it. Another distinctive feature of this
routine is the pouch that is used. When I first watched the performance I was completely deceived by it,
which is all you can ask for. Put simply, gone are the days when you either have pockets bulging with citrus
fruits, or you are carrying some leather accessory that makes you look like an extra from ‘Monty Python and
the Holy Grail’. Watson has delivered an elegant solution to a perennial problem, and it is this solution
which gives the routine its Martini like moniker.
Another bonus here is a brief explanation of centre line theory,
familiar to martial artists and in particular to exponents of Wing Chun. Not what you might expect from your
average magic DVD, but this isn’t your average magic DVD. Like the sections on psychology, this is
theoretical material which ideally should feed into your wider thinking and inform your performances. And
anything, anything that gets magicians to use their feet is worth its weight in
So, what we have is a beautiful routine, precisely explained, with
some invaluable teaching on psychology and performance. There are also some great bits on those classic
mistakes and flashes that one sees all too often. If you get caught caught flashing your load, (which sounds
terribly rude), then buy these DVD’s!
It takes guts to publish new work on the cups and balls, which is
perhaps why so many magicians just blithely copy Vernon, Gazzo or Ammar. As I said earlier, it’s a pity. And
while I don’t intend to steal Watson’s routine, which would defeat his stated objective in any case, like a
magpie I have already taken several jewels for my own nest. When presented with such quality, this much is