BILLY SUTER chats to Port Elizabeth’s BRENDON PEEL, whose talent for mentalism and magic saw him bring his solo show, Hocus Pocus, to the Rhumbelow Theatre branch in Kloof last September. He now brings a new show, The Trickster, to the Umbilo Rhumbelow Theatre from March 22 to 24 and again from March 29 to 31. Tickets cost R150 and performances are at 8pm Fridays and Saturdays and 2pm on Sundays. Peel also presents a kiddy show, Alakazam, at 11am daily from March 18 to 23 and March 22 to 30 at the Umbilo Rhumbelow, for which tickets cost R75. He also presents a magic workshop for children at 2pm daily from March 18 to 23 and March 22 to 30 at the Umbilo Rhumbelow. Tickets for this cost R150 (or R200 for the kiddy show and the workshop). Book at Computicket or phone Roland at 082 499 8636 for bookings.
Briefly describe what audiences can expect of your new show in Durban ?
In my show, you can expect some traditional and ‘old school’ magic blended in with 21st century mentalism. There will be engagement from members of the crowd. The show is engaging, Mind-blowing, informative and, above all else, entertaining!
You describe yourself as predominantly a mentalist (centred on mind-reading games). How, when and why did you develop this skill? Also, how much of your show is made up of general magic – and what training have you had in this area?
I am, indeed, what is known as a mentalist, which is essentially doing magic that focuses on the mind. I taught myself everything I know in terms of magic, illusion and mentalism.
I started practicing and teaching myself magic because I had always had an interest in making the impossible possible.
I like mentalism most as there is a grey area within mentalism, as to what is real and what is not. I like blurring that line and leaving the audience wondering if what they saw was truly real or an illusion.
The Hocus Pocus show comprisesabout 60% mentalism and 40% of more traditonal magic tricks. It even includes the oldest trick in the book.
Where and when marked your professional debut as a performer in magic – and what was most memorable about that experience?
My first close-up performance, at a restaurant, was in 2009, and my first stage performance was in 2011, in my show Mind Games – where I was the youngest solo magician to ever take the stage at the Grahamstown National Arts Festival. So I guess you could say 2011 was the start of professional career.
It was the craziest and best experience of my life. Right after my very first show I knew that this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
What other things have you studied… and what other career paths have you followed or do you pursue?
I have a degree majoring in journalism and drama, and a post-grad in Business from Rhodes University.
I have been in the entertainment industry my entire working career.
I was a bartender for one day once and that was the only other job I’ve ever had. I am a full-time magician.
Have you performed in KwaZulu-Natal before?
Before my shows in Kloof last September, I had performed a fundraiser show at Maritzburg College earlier this year and have also brought my magic onto East Coast Radio’s Drive Show. I love the East Coast and I am always excited to bring my magic to KwaZulu-Natal.
Where and when were you born and at what age did you develop an interest in magic – and what inspired that interest?
I am from Port Elizabeth. I became interested in magic at quite a young age. I used to watch David Blaine’s TV shows and Derren Brown, and that inspired me to learn magic and, in particular, mentalism.
Are any other members of your family into magic?
My late great-uncle used to perform magic. However, I never had the good fortune of meeting him. Besides him, there are no other magicians in my family.
What has been your best stage success? And your worst magic disaster (if any)?
It is hard to say what my best stage success has been as I have performed over 400 stage shows – but one of my top achievements has to be having a successful run of shows at the Edinburgh Festival.
My worst disaster was smashing my hand down on the wrong cup in a trick called ‘spiked’, which is an effect I will be performing in Hocus Pocus.
What is the golden rule of being a mentalist/magician? And are there perhaps any no-nos in your line of entertainment?
The golden rule for me is to never give away or reveal a secret to an illusion, Also, I don’t perform the same trick for the same audience more than once as this takes away the element of surprise.
What magicians/mentalists do you most admire?
There is one very simple answer to that question, and that is Derren Brown, He has, without a doubt, been the biggest influence on my career path. He is, in my opinion, the best entertainer on planet Earth.
How far afield have you performed and where would you have performed immediately before the Hilton Arts Festival and Durban performances? Also, where to for you after these local dates?
I have performed across South Africa and even internationally. Before coming to the Rhumbelow Theatre and the Hilton Arts Festival I do have some events lined up in Port Elizabeth. Thereafter I also have performances scheduled in Cape Town, Somerset West and George.
What has been your most memorable performance to date?
One of my most memorable performances was performing a three-hour stage show for a school. It was early on in my career and I didn’t realise that three hours is actually a lot of time to be performing magic.
I went through all my routines and kept the crowd engaged for a full three hours, with no break! It was at this point I knew I could handle practically any gig that came my way.
What has been your most embarrassing moment on stage?
It has happened a couple of times where I have mistaken a guy for a girl and vice versa. It t is quite embarrassing. I don’t mean it to happen but sometimes the lights are quite bright on stage and I can’t see the crowd so well.
What have been some comments you have heard from the public – and have you had any unusual fan requests perhaps?
Generally, people love the shows I do. I often have people message me and ask for predictions of scores for soccer matches, as well as other sports, as they wish to bet on my picks.
I have also been asked to heal terminal illnesses, contact the dead, and one gentleman asked me to become a leader of their cult. I was flattered by all of these.
I naturally declined all these requests, as what I do is illusion… only for entertainment purposes.
What are five words to best describe your strengths as a person? And five to describe your weaknesses?
Strengths: charismatic, intelligent, funny, passionate, confident.
Weaknesses:late-riser, tone-deaf, shy, impatient, cynophobic (fear of dogs).
Away from the world of magic, how do you relax and unwind? Any hobbies or things you collect perhaps?
Before I ever did magic I acted. I still love acting when I have the chance. I also love to draw and am a surprisingly good artist. I write scripts and plays for fun too. I also collect coins, cards, stamps and comic books.
I am also an avid quizzer and my quiz team and I quiz at least once or twice a week every week. Iur team is called The Inklings.
I also love playing pool and will legitimately challenge anyone who wants to play me.
What are five things about yourself, however trivial, that most people are not likely to know.
I once won a cake-decorating competition.
I nearly studied Fine Art at university .
I was very serious about soccer and cricket and really wanted to go pro.
Before I ever learnt a magic trick I used to play poker. In fact, by the age of 11 it was already one of my goals to play at the World Series of Poker (WSOP). This will still happen one day.
If it wasn’t for magic I would most likely become a politician
What is the most surprising thing someone has said of you?
I was once told that I excelled as a lead in a musical I performed in. It surprised me because I genuinely don’’t think I can sing or dance.
What are your fears and phobias – and why?
Dogs/ I just don’t like big dogs. I also have a fear of failing and missing out on the opportunity to live out my dreams.
What are two of your most treasured possessions?
My very first toy (it’d like a random teddy bear). It is the first material object I was given and I think that is quite noteworthy. Also treasured is my ‘metal stick’. I used to play around in the garden with a metal stick, I know it sounds bizarre but believe it or not I created some of my best childhood memories running around the garden with that stick. It is essentially value-less, but to me it is priceless.
What is the worst trouble you have ever been in?
That, I have to say, is classified information.
Any other news or comments?
I am really looking forward to performing in KwaZulu-Natal again. It’s always really good fun and I know everyone who comes through will enjoy the show.
I also want to thank everyone who has helped me and supported me in coming to the shows, or helping by putting in input of any kind. Words cannot express how grateful I am to all these people.