The magic of The Secret Connection starts before the zoom show, when each audience member receives a mysterious parcel in the post to be opened on Dr Will Houstoun’s instruction. This is not arranged via a mentalist trick, the organizers request an address when each ticket is purchased, but if key components of a magic trick are creating a sense of anticipation and wonder the parcel definitely qualifies. It is an early demonstration of Dr Houstoun’s wholehearted embracement of a new generation of magic that permeates every element of his show.
Dr Houstoun earned his title with a PhD in Victorian conjuring literature. He opens his show by asking if the audience would prefer an exhaustive history of notable magic events from the 16th century to date or his collection of zoom-era magic tricks. While this audience voted decisively for the tricks, Dr Houstoun uses a brief historical introduction to contextualize modern magic as it is known pre-pandemic and how the new era of zoom magic fits into that lineage.
In a section devoted to sleight of hand tricks, Dr Houstoun takes full advantage of his medium to have maximum impact. Coin tricks are usually only performed to small audiences so everyone gets a good view, but in a zoom show the whole audience gets a front row seat, so Dr Houstoun can execute this trick regardless of his audience size. When he moves on to card tricks he goes a step further, with an effect that not only works on zoom but performing it in a way that would not be nearly as impressive in an in-person show.
The smooth use of the platform deserves its own mention. The audience are muted by default, and when the chosen participants are pulled in to the show they appear on the same screen as Dr Houstoun, mimicking the way participants were brought on to the stage in pre-pandemic shows. The audience is also divided out into timed breakout sessions at one point in the show, allowing for a randomized chat with a stranger that would be difficult to work out logistically in an in-person audience, where even if conversation with strangers were encouraged it would be limited to those within speaking distance.
Dr Houstoun ends on an entirely classic note, with a final reveal that all magic fans will have seen coming from the first few seconds of the show, that he nevertheless effectively ties in to his overarching theme of connections formed. While the sort of reveal that he utilizes is generally underwhelming to anyone who has seen more than one magic show, it works in context here as a final nod to the history of magic. The Secret Connection as a whole looks forward, demonstrating how magic has always adapted to its era to create connections and providing compelling proof that it will always continue to do so.
More information on The Secret Connection can be found here.