Simon Drake: The Inside Magic Interview
Inside Magic, 3 October 2005
Simon Drake has been a significant player in magic on both sides of the Atlantic for years. He is a mainstay in the world of magic news.
His work spans genres and generations in large part because he is able to offer magic and magic advice that helps to spotlight the project at hand. He has worked with Sir Cameron Mackintosh (producer of our favorite 'Les Miserables') on the recent hit 'The Witches of Eastwick'.
Metal fans like us will recall he was the illusionist on the Iron Maiden tour in 1993-94 and featured in the band's outstanding live film of the concert.
He has established the place to see and be seen in London by building the Simon Drake's House of Magic. All of his work has been favorably reviewed in the magic news and information world.
It was no surprise, then, Kenneth Branagh would call on Mr. Drake to consult on the magic used in the new London play, 'Ducktastic'. The play is based on a mixture of a magic duck, down-and-out magicians, and the over-the-top spirit of Siegfried & Roy.
Mr. Drake was kind enough to answer some questions about his life, his work, and his plans.
What support did you receive from your family in the very earliest days of your magic ventures?
What would you say was your big break in the world of magic?
What has been, out of all the big illusions you have performed, your favorite to present?
Speaking of which, The Simon Drake's 'House of Magic' has received very positive reviews as one of the places to see and be seen in the UK Magic and celebrity world. Could you tell us a little about it?
'The Whispering Chair' which started as a cold reading thing but now utilises a real clairvoyant, where each audience member get their fortunes told in three minutes.
My show is just under an hour and we specialise in light hearted amputations and decapitations of celebs and senior executives, as well as my floating candle, cane and knife thru arm as well as a lot of other things and original illusions.
The whole thing is a full six-hour evening of entertainment from 7:00 pm to 1:00 am with great food and a reasonably priced bar, three close-up magicians and dancing.
If you had to be remembered for one effect in your lifetime - which effect would it be and why?
Who do you consider to be your biggest influences in your magic, both past and present? Who are among your favorite magicians, both past and present?
Present: The Amazing Johnathan. He must be the funniest man in magic and the new parts of his show are so funny although not ice-breaking in a magical sense.
Teller is also really inventive and a nice chap.
Steve Fearson and Kevin James must be amongst the most underated and unpraised inventors of our generation.
Do you like to scare your audiences?
How did you become involved in the Ducktastic Project?
This was possibly due to my 'take' on magic, visual humour and their view that I come up with original work. Then the two stars and creators, Hamish McColl and Sean Foley came over and acted the whole thing out in my sitting room and it was so funny that I couldn't refuse.
I had reservations about working with animals as it's something I have always avoided but was reassured that Dave Souser who is one of the best animal trainers in the world was in charge of the ducks and was satisfied that he would deal with them with great care, which he has. Dave trained the squirrels for 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' and did all the Harry Potter movies.
Did you work with Kenneth Branagh on prior projects? He was quoted in a press release as calling your work Brilliant. That's quite a compliment.
We note you also worked on 'The Witches of Eastwick' project, also termed Brilliant by critics. Do you enjoy working with theatrical productions?
When does Ducktastic open and what's it about?
The story is about a pair of illusionists that have lost their wild animal license and are only allowed to use one duck. There are about 18 illusions and effects in the show and quiet a few of them are original.
I have had about a dozen prop builders and effects folk working on it with me, most of the bigger magic effects have been built by Paul Cooke, who has done a good job and has been a lot of fun to work with. This show is very funny and totally daft.
Does it require a different skill set?
What was it like working with the incredible Cameron Mackintosh?
I was quite aware of how big of a hit potential it had but didn't care as I am not that keen on most musicals and knew my limitations. When I eventually saw the show I was pleased with my decision as I found it hard to watch and cringed at all those actors in silly make up and leotards.
Working with Cameron was great fun and as he is something of a perfectionist, quite hard work too but that suits me.
Thank you, Mr. Drake for taking the time to talk with us.