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A magician who does things by the book? Not Oliver Meech! To the contrary, Oliver prides himself on approaching trickery from unconventional angles in order to bamboozle audiences to the max. Here, in the run-up to his performance at Bridlington’s Spotlight Theatre, Oliver chats about his kind of magic with “Pulse” author Steve Rudd…

Hi Oliver, how are things, and how has 2016 treated you so far?

It’s been great, thanks. I’ve been taking my comedy-magic show (with a science twist) around the country. I performed in Einstein’s Garden at Green Man Festival over summer, I’ve just returned from appearing at the National Space Centre in Leicester, and I can’t wait to bring my show to Bridlington!

How old were you when you first developed an interest in magic?

I dabbled as a kid, but the bug bit properly when I was 16. I found “Paul Daniel’s Adult Magic” in a bookshop, went along to the magic shop listed in the back, joined their Young Magicians’ Club, and my fate was sealed!

Excuse the pun, but was it “love at first sleight”?

Ooh, I love a bit of wordplay… it’s punbeatable! It was certainly a case of “love at first sight of grown-up magic books.” I never realised there was a vast “secret library” of magic books written for adult magicians, which covered the history, philosophy, psychology and presentation of magic. I’ve been a “trick glutton” ever since.

What kind of tricks did you initially practice to the point of perfection?

While I perform more “stage magic” these days, I started with close-up magic. I remember fooling some of my family with the “Vanishing Salt Cellar Trick” in a restaurant. It’s a simple trick, but still so strong.

Were there any magicians that particularly influenced you when you were growing up?

Penn & Teller were, and remain, a big influence on me. They never do a standard trick in a standard way, and I try to follow the same approach. The “classics” of magic, like the “Linking Rings Trick,” are good, but we’ve all seen them before. I love developing new tricks that have never been seen before. My current favourite is my “Ultimate Snack Machine,” where I make any snacks requested appear from my magical machine!

At what point did you think, I could make a living out of doing magic-based shows!

The point when I got my cut of ticket sales for my first show in a good-sized theatre. I got a cheque for much more than I expected, I did the sums, and I thought, If I put the work in, I could make a go of it.

So how did you go about developing your very first show?

I jumped straight in and booked an hour at the Edinburgh Fringe, the world’s biggest arts festival, because there’s nothing like a deadline to focus the mind! I like having themes for my shows, and my first one was about time travel, so I developed anything and everything I could think of around the theme, then I boiled it down to the best bits. It was terrifying at the time, but the result was very pleasing.

You’ve gone on to perform sell-out shows all around the UK, your appearances at festivals such as Edinburgh Fringe having helped ferment your reputation as a magician extraordinaire. What do you enjoy most about performing in front of a live audience, and do you ever get nervous?

I still get a little nervous, but less than I used to. As soon as I come out on stage, the nerves go, and I can enjoy interacting with the audience, which is my favourite part of the job. I never get bored of their reactions. No two shows are ever exactly the same, which keeps it fresh for them and me.

As anybody who has ever seen you perform will inevitably testify, your shows are far from being conventional magic shows, as you’re prone to mix “science experiments” into your shows to stunning effect. What is it with you and science?

Science has always fascinated me. I studied Experimental Psychology at Oxford University, which I loved, but I’ve always been a generalist, so I get to explore all the fun bits of science by using them to inspire magic tricks. It also means that audiences see new tricks in an art form that’s thousands of years old.

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Given that you’ve been performing for so long, how easy is it to keep coming up with “new” tricks to wow audiences?

While most people may only think of magic occasionally, I never really stop thinking about it. My poor wife! I’m always making notes of little ideas on my phone. Then, when I come to develop a new show, I flesh them out to see which ones will be most entertaining.

So what do people who are coming to see you perform in Bridlington have to look forward to?

Amazing tricks inspired by astounding science! Audiences can expect an entertaining mix of magic, mind-reading and mirth, suitable for adults and children aged 7 upwards. It’s a really fun, positive night out.

What advice would you give to any aspiring magicians who are reading this?

Be yourself, and ask yourself two questions with every trick: 1) How do I do it? and 2) How can I do it differently? Ignore what others say about sticking to existing ways of doing things, and express yourself; it’ll make the tricks more interesting for you and your audiences. I’m feeling very hopeful, because there are lots more women getting into magic these days, so we should see a lot more variety of performance in the near future.

Finally, how can people find out more about you and your magic?

They can go to www.olivermeech.com or “Follow” me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/magicmeech

Oliver will be performing at Bridlington’s Spotlight Theatre (on West Street) on Friday 18th November


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