IT’S been another busy year for one of Wargrave’s most famous residents — but with Christmas
IT’S been another busy year for one of Wargrave’s most famous residents — but with Christmas nearly upon us Paul Daniels is happy to kick back and reflect on the joys of 2015.
So much so, in fact, that he will soon be doing so on stage when he joins comedian-turned-magician Danny Buckler for one of his popular “Magic Salon” shows at Norden Farm Centre for the Arts in Maidenhead.
Modelled on the chat show format, the show will see Daniels and fellow conjurors Mark Elsdon and Edward Hilsum performing their sets before sharing their insights about magic and more with their host.
At the end of the show, all three will gather on the guests’ sofa for a chat that includes questions from the audience. It’s a slightly unusual format for a theatre show — albeit one modelled on the familiar TV chat show. But as Danny Buckler makes clear, that’s very much the point.
Having worked as a stand-up comedian since leaving college, he says the rise of superstar comedians such as Michael McIntyre, John Bishop and Sarah Millican has had a knock-on effect for town centre comedy clubs.
“It’s a rum time because comedy clubs are suffering at the moment,” he says. “It’s a horrible thing because no one wants to stop [doing comedy] but it’s a good thing because it forces people to change what they’re doing.”
Some people might wonder why the success of the big-time comics has created difficulties for those a little further down the pecking order. “It’s because we’re about seven years behind America in the way that comedy works,” says Danny.
“Stand-up comedy is a big thing. Every town has a comedy club. Everyone loves stand-up. TV sniffs it out, eventually puts it on TV all the time — which is what we had about three or four years ago, when you had all these sort of big shows.”
Not that Danny has entirely given up on stand-up, but he says he is enjoying his new direction — which has seen him reignite his own interest in magic, first sparked when he read a book of card tricks as a teenager growing up in Woking.
“I don’t know if it will be for ever, but at the moment I’m really enjoying it,” he says. “It’s given me a little avenue to be creative with what I’m doing. It’s like it’s turned on a little part of my brain that had gone to sleep for a bit.”
Everyone knows who Paul Daniels is, but Danny says this will be the first time he has worked with the man he calls “the most renowned and respected magician in the UK for more than 40 years”.
They have met briefly once before but he knows Debbie McGee slightly better, having appeared as a guest on her BBC Radio Berkshire show. “She’s lovely, isn’t she?” he says. “She’s wonderful, so I hope when he comes on he’s as nice as she is!” Was Mr Daniels the TV magician something of an inspiration for the young Danny?
“He was. He wasn’t the only one, but I watched The Paul Daniels Magic Show. This was back in the days when you watched it. It wasn’t like now when everything’s instantaneous. You either saw it or you didn’t. There were just the three channels.”
He was one of the biggest names on TV in the late Seventies and early Eighties.
“Yes indeed. He sold out the Prince of Wales Theatre for that record-breaking run — the biggest star in the country at one time, he was.
“I think it was six months, but I’d have to Google that. He was supposed to be there for a month but it ended up being extended.”In fact, Google reveals that the show in question, It’s Magic, ran from December 1980 to February 1982.
By this point, Daniels was already working with his future wife, Debbie McGee. She had first acted as his assistant during his 1979 summer season at Great Yarmouth.
Asked today about his run at the Prince of Wales Theatre, Daniels remains quietly proud of the scale of the show’s success. “To me it came as a big surprise to find out I was only really booked there for, I think, just over two weeks,” he says.
“Because they liked what I did — they liked the show that I did, and all that, but they didn’t believe it would run ... and it ran! In the period we were there I know we took about a million and a half quid ... back when, as they say, a million pounds was a lot of money.”
At 77 years young, Daniels is happy to confirm he has no plans to retire, saying he doesn’t really understand the concept. He said: “Ah, yes, well, you see, I am the keeper of the Debbie McGee Shoe Fund.”
Asked whether he has to keep her in the shoes to which she’s become accustomed? Daniels replies: “To which her legs have grown accustomed, yes.”
• Danny Buckler’s Magic Salon is at Norden Farm Centre for the Arts in Altwood Road, Maidenhead, on Friday, December 4, at 8pm. Tickets are £12 (£8 concessions). To book, call the box office on 01628 788997 or visit www.nordenfarm.org/whatson