“Andre Malraux said, ‘You are not what you show; you are what you hide.’ This is a blog for magicians who regard the art of magic, and how its history is still an important element of that art.” —Jim
A PERFORMANCE OF THE FAMOUS MASKELYNE PLAY
In 1997 we recreated “Will, the Witch and the Watchman” for our audience at the Los Angeles Conference on Magic History and presented the play three times to accommodate our attendees. Here’s a video of the performance. We kept it true to the action and spirit of the original (although we eliminated some particularly dated bits of business, like stopping to sing a popular song or Victorian references and puns). The play features the famous Maskelyne Box Trick, one of the original escape trunks presented onstage. Here Maskelyne simultaneously presented as a challenge to the audience and presented as part of the plot of his farce. In the Maskelyne productions (between 1865 and 1917) John Nevil Maskelyne often played The Witch. (He sometimes took the part of Joe, the Butcher, with a heavy Gloucester accent.) Nevil Maskelyne sometimes took the role of Daddy Growl. And George Cooke generally played the part of the Monkey in the early years, during his partnership with Maskelyne.
Our 1997 Cast was…
JOHN CARNEY as Miles, a Watchman
PATRICK ALBANESE as Will, a Sailor
DON BICE as Daddy Growl, the Head of the Watch
LESLEY LANGE as Dolly, Daddy’s little girl
CRAIG DICKENS as The Witch
JIM PIPER as Joe, the Butcher
And, as Monkey… ?
Costumes by Frankie Glass. Scenery by Rolly Crump. Apparatus created by Owen Redwine, Craig Dickens and Patrick Albanese. Music includes “The Baker’s Wife,” the original Maskelyne theme for the Witch. With special thanks to John A. McKinven, John Salisse and Anne Davenport for historical support. Produced at the Fifth Los Angeles Conference on Magic History.
The play is just over 20 minutes. My introduction tells you all about the history. So, sit back. Relax. Get some popcorn. And enjoy this tribute to the magic of John Nevil Maskelyne and the memory of Victorian London’s famous magic theater, the Egyptian Hall.