I had the Paul Daniels magic set back in the 1980s but I never once thought that one day I’d be plucked from the audience to appear with him up on stage! But that happened just recently at a Mostly Comedy night in Hitchin’s small 100 seat capacity Market Theatre!
My girlfriend and I took our seats early at 20:45 as we were keen to get a “front row” seat … but not too near the front “just in case”, electing for two seats on the aisle in row 3. So still fairly close as we watched first act Bec Hill perform her routine.
So far so good, a great sketch at the end in time to one of Edith Piaf’s French classics, applause and then off to the bar. After a quick ale we returned expectantly to the theatre. Claire wanted to swap seats as she felt slightly exposed on the end and she’d heard Paul Daniels sometimes liked to pick out women from the audience, but I was having none of that and stayed sat exactly where I was! Hosts Doggett & Ephgrave then reappeared, introduced Paul Daniels, the main event and then it was on with the show!
So after some initial introductory chit chat Paul looks over to me and says “You there with the glasses and Hollywood T-shirt?” I happen to be wearing a bright white T-shirt in a sea of darker clothing. “What’s your name? “Steve.” I reply, sounding slightly too much like someone trying to sound tough. “Oh – Steve.” replies Paul in a deep voice mimicing what I’ve just said. “Where are you from Steve?” “Hitchin.” I reply. “You haven’t fallen far from the tree have you Steve?” The dozens of witty comebacks you think you’d come up with in such a situation are sadly lacking. “What’s this Steve?” waving a mouse mat in the air. I know exactly where this one is going. “A mouse mat.” I reply. “Are you in IT Steve?” “… Yes I am.” A few chuckles, a few more japes and the act moves on with me assisting him from my seat with the famous “chop cup” routine, a privilege since it’s recently been listed as the 3rd best magic trick ever!
The biggest cheer of the night actually comes from a cameo appearance by Debbie McGee, followed by two ladies from the front row being brought up on stage for a ‘cleavage to cleavage’ card trick. While all this time I’m sitting there thinking how pretty darn amazing that was to be chatting to a THE Paul Daniels. Little did I know!
So Paul does his next little skit and then he spots me again. “I like you Steve – come up on stage!” Rather than my legs freezing as I thought they might I’m bizarrely looking forward to this and up I go. Standing up on stage you can’t actually see much of the audience as you’re blinded by the spotlights but I’m well aware that 100 pairs of eyes are staring right at me so I try not to act like a twit! And my contribution? The trick involves me shuffling a pack of cards. Concentrating incredibly hard so as not to spray them all over the stage, but also wanting to shuffle them sufficiently for the benefit of the audience. I’m up there with another member of the audience but it’s me who writes my name on a playing card which Paul then materialises after some sleight of hand “as if by magic”. But to be honest I wasn’t paying any attention due to literally being in the spotlight(s) and feeling as conspicuous as is humanly possible.
So I sit back down, my girlfriend is beside herself and I wonder what I’ll tell the people at work the next day. A short while later Paul says “I like you Steve – come up here again”! Oh no!!! 🙂
This time he wants a note out of my wallet! Luckily I have both a £20 and £5 note. What would I have done if I’d had no cash on me? #awkward. He asks me to remember the last 3 serial number digits (246), tears off a small corner and then asks me to hold it outstretched above me. I find myself saying the number repeatedly in my head as I don’t want to stuff up the trick and/or look stupid! More Paul Daniels one-liners, classic old school entertainment, some misdirection with some polo mints before the rest of my £20 note reappears in a … well I can’t tell you that as that would spoil the surprise 😉 Needless to say it was pretty damn impressive!
I’m still on a high when I get home. Did that really happen? And in my own little town of Hitchin just a mile or two from my front door? Next day thanks to Twitter I get hold of some of the organisers’ photos along with a “like” from the great man himself! So a lesson for next time? Possibly wear a dark coloured shirt to standup comedy/magic shows or sit a bit further back? Not at all! I’d love to do it all again!