The Dubai-based magician Sumeet Spell talks about his profession entertaining young audiences.
The trick of his trade: grabbing their attention
Children will always love magic. It's one of those universal truths that no matter where you are in the world, kids of a certain age adore a magician. Sumeet Spell knows this. Since he started learning magic tricks in Dubai nine years ago, he has performed more than 150 shows, entertaining children at schools, birthday parties and festivals.
Originally from India, Spell says he was destined to be a performer. "I wanted to be an entertainer and in show business ever since I was a child. I started out acting in TV serials in India. I love the stage, I love acting." He realised magic was for him after seeing a show in Dubai. Backstage, he begged the magician to teach him his secrets. It wasn't an easy task. "I kind of fell at his feet and begged him to teach me how he did his tricks. He told me to get lost. But I carried on. He pointed out that magic takes a lot of patience and it's expensive. You have to buy one trick and practise until it's perfect, then move on to the next one. So, I ended up buying my tricks from him one at a time. I had to go back and show him I had mastered it before I could buy the next one."
Spell works full-time as a magician and an illusionist. He says it's the eager young eyes amazed by his sleight of hand that gives him the biggest buzz. "Kids really enjoy trying to figure out how it works. They are curious and sit there in amazement. I think magic is one thing that is never going to die. Magicians as a form of entertainment for kids are going to be around for a very long time and the industry is going to be there. It's creative, you can never get bored. All magicians are different and every show is unique."
Spell varies his shows depending on the age of the children but knows the importance of capturing their attention quickly and keeping it. "In a basic show for four to six-year-olds, you need a nice humorous magic show that is interactive. I try to make them laugh, get them on stage. They love being involved. Children like anything flashy and quick, unlike adults who prefer build-up and suspense. You have to start your show and grab their attention in the first couple of minutes."
Typically, a children's show requires him to have 10 to 15 tricks up his sleeve. Some are variations on well-known illusions and others are original. Like any stage show, it's not just about being able to pull off each trick technically; magicians need to be performers. "Buying a magic trick is not the end, it's the beginning. Rehearsing in front of the mirror, practising it, testing it and then scripting it takes a lot of patience," he says.
Spell admits that he still gets stage fright from time to time, and part of his ambition is to help children overcome their fears of public speaking. "I've run workshops for kids on how they can become entertainers and magicians and remove any stage fear. I also lecture at schools about magic and confidence." Where does he draw his inspiration and confidence? "One of my idols is the American magician Lance Burton. He's very good with illusions and can make a lit candle appear. David Copperfield is a pioneer as he has the money to create new illusions - he creates tricks that get replicated around the world."
Luckily, Spell's young audiences have simpler tastes. "Rope-cutting tricks always get a good laugh - however many times you cut it, it always comes back together again. A bouquet of flowers has no petals on it, but you pass your hand over it and suddenly it does. For my grand finale, there's the gift bag ... you show the audience the empty bag but then gifts come out of it. They love that."