CHENNAI: George Diamond, a professional illusionist, magician-cum-quick change artist, who made his way to the finals in a popular reality show Serbia’s Got Talent is in the city to showcase a wide repertoire of acts, especially his signature ‘quick change act’.
He was barely six when he was enchanted with illusion and magic. He was 15 when he first performed in front of an audience in school. “There was a guest band who were part of the celebrations. They loved my performance, and approached me for a professional gig. A couple of days later, I had my first professional act with them. The rest is history!” he shares. George is excited about his first visit to the city, and gets candid with CE about memorable moments from his journey, his love for Indian magicians and more. Excerpts follow.
What are the challenges in your ‘Quick change act’? When did you perform it first?
Quick change is complex and tough. It imposes both technical and artistic challenges, as it takes two people with flawless synchronisation to perform. But it’s such a joy to perform! At the time when I learned the act, it was still a very rare genre; only a few were performing the act. Most of them were from Russia, and the techniques were a secret. I was however, determined to learn. Since my assistant at the time was from Ukraine, she started pulling strings in the community of the former Soviet State Circus artists. The doors opened for us and we were taught by an elderly Russian couple. After months of practice, we finally performed in 2001. I was so proud to be one of the first non-Russian artistes to do quick change!
A funny incident during your performance?
Oh, they happen from time to time. The funniest thing that happened to me was in a big show, in front of 2,000 people! We were performing the ‘Houdini’s Metamorphosis’, a famous illusion in which my assistant gets handcuffed, placed in a canvas bag, which is then placed in a big box. It is then closed, locked and secured with rope. I step onto this trunk, cover myself for a split second, and all of a sudden it is my assistant standing on top of the trunk.
When she unlocks it, she finds me inside, in a canvas bag and handcuffed. Whenever I perform this illusion, after locking my assistant in the box, I throw the keys on the stage, so that she can find them later and unlock the box to get me out of it. That evening, I locked myself in the box without realising that the keys were in my pocket! But the presence of mind of my assistant, who turned the whole situation into an act, helped me. They had to break the hard wood box with an axe to get me out. But when I came out, I got a standing ovation - the audience thought it was all the part of the show, and that I was recreating one of Houdini’s favourite illusions (laughs).
What about magic and magicians in India you admire?
I have always loved watching PC Sorcar and PC Sorcar Junior. Their unique blend of modern magic performed in their signature traditional Indian style is amazing. I have always been impressed by Indian magicians who often perform on streets with minimum props and with skills they probably learned from generations of performers in their family. Many tricks they perform have been the basis of some of the most famous tricks performed in the western world — improvised and modernised.
Being your first time to Chennai, what are you looking forward to?
I am looking forward to spending some good time in this city, known as the greatest and one of the most beautiful city in India. I am a great admirer of Indian culture, tradition, heritage, and also the contemporary trends. I love the amazing phenomenon called Bollywood. Who knows, maybe I’ll get a chance to play a role of a magician in a Bollywood movie, some day!
David Copperfield or Houdini?
Copperfield as he is one of greatest living magicians and one of the greatest entertainers in the world.
Performing for passion, fame or money?
Passion, and passion only. But, hey, if passion and doing something you love brings you money, isn’t that the most fantastic thing?
Old school magic or contemporary?
Quick-change act or Chinese mask change act?
A location that you dream to perform in?
Las Vegas. It is a city of dreams for many people in showbiz.
Chinese Mask Change Act
It’s a traditional Chinese act from Sichuan Opera, and the techniques were a closely guarded secret in China. They were passed on from one generation to another of performers within families. “I am one of the very few western performers who managed to learn this act from a Chinese master of this art.”
Every new performance that ends with a thunderous applause is my best experience ever. But out of my recent performances, I would highlight my performances in ‘Serbia’s Got Talent’, as it was a challenge to perform in front of a multimillion TV auditorium, competing with several hundreds of talented people.
George Diamond will be performing in Phoenix MarketCity, Velachery, till
Sep 17 from 3 pm to 8 pm