Malcolm makes magic from the mundane
By: Anna Borowiecki
| Posted: Saturday, Feb 23, 2013 06:00 am
Malcolm the Magician
Wednesday, Feb. 27 at 11 a.m.
Tickets: Adult $10, child $5, under two is free. Call 780-459-1542 or purchase online at www.ticketmaster.ca
Almost everyone seems to know Malcolm the Magician, a.k.a. Malcolm Russell. He is an entertainer originally from the south of England who has featured his sleight-of-hand magic at local festivals for the past five years.
“I have a mix of comedy, magic and juggling. It’s very interactive, very conversational,” he says. The Black Diamond resident will perform as part of Noisy Theatre at the Arden Theatre on Wednesday, Feb. 27.
He prefers carrying out close-up stage magic using everyday objects – cards, rubber bands and pens. One of the magician’s specialties is a rope routine in which he snips one long rope into three sections and magically reattaches it into one piece – without knots.
“Anyone can examine them. They are not a strange puzzle. And there’s something quite powerful about working with normal, everyday examinable objects,” he said.
Although the objects are small, he plays the magic large.
“They have to be seen from the stage. They have to engage the entire audience and be seen from a distance,” he said.
To aid in his presentation, Malcolm always invites guests from the audience.
“They are my volunteers, but they can also be the eyes and ears for the audience.”
A consummate professional who performs about 250 shows each year, Malcolm initially stepped into the world of magic by accident.
At 16 he was already juggling. At university a close friend and assistant producer of the Edmonton Street Performers Festival asked the juggler to volunteer his services. Malcolm obliged.
One year the festival offered a professional development workshop in magic.
“I didn’t know a thing about magic, but after going for four days, five hours a day you learn something.”
As luck would have it, Malcolm didn’t seriously apply himself to the art until he and his wife, Nadine, moved to Poland.
“She’d seen an advertisement for English teachers. They were in desperate need. We applied and were accepted. We sold everything to be teachers and left in 1994.”
Finding employment was the easy part. Discovering activities to engage in during off hours was a greater challenge.
“When we arrived we didn’t speak the language. We didn’t have a TV and we had a short-wave radio that didn’t always work. Bouncing juggling balls was too loud for the neighbours.”
There was only one alternative. Magic. For eight years while the duo taught in the Slavic nation, Malcolm honed his magician’s chops.
The couple spent another three years in Japan before moving back to England and settling on an island off the Scottish coast.
“I set a goal to do a magic show on every inhabited island in Scotland. I did 106 shows and it took a year and one day. About 25 per cent of the islands had a population of one family or less.”
By 2007, the magician returned to Calgary and took up cabinet making to pay bills. Within a year, he was heavily involved in the entertainment circuit and retired as a tradesman.
With a huge degree of respect for his audience, Malcolm refuses to use pre-packed tricks. Instead, he relies on ingenuity and craftsmanship.
“I do similar material for adults and children. A lot of my material appeals to both of them, but I tweak the material for the audience I present. For instance, the rope trick is very visual and works for both.”
While the routines are similar, the spontaneity is what makes each show fresh.
“I’ve seen my show hundreds of times and I still enjoy it,” he said. “Your kids will too.”