Magicians like to give the impression that they control every last second of their shows, but the one thing that they can never fully control is their audience. On the day that The Greatest Magician was reviewed James Phelan spent a lot of his time playing whack-a-mole with unruly audience participants. His crowd control was a bit hit or miss, if he was a little sharp with the odd individual the audience as a whole generally felt that they deserved it, this did seem to affect the kind of people who volunteered to join him, which may have exacerbated the issue. Nevertheless, through all of this Phelan managed to keep the audience on his side and get through a series of impressive tricks.
The audience management was probably the more impressive feat. Phelan had audience participants misunderstanding his instructions, he invited up wannabe comedians… it was the full range of troublesome participants. While getting understandably a bit annoyed at first, by the end of the show he was handling this with grace. He allowed the self-appointed comedian to tell his joke, “I went in to a spaghetti restaurant and tried to steal some spaghetti, but there was a security guard and I couldn’t get pasta”, before inviting him to leave the stage. And he ran through as many participants as necessary for his initial card trick, patiently waiting to find enough participants sober enough to help him out—surprisingly a difficult task on a Friday afternoon (you can add in a joke about Scottish drinking culture if you’d like).
Magically, Phelan describes the inspiring influence of his uncle, Paul Daniels. His adorable childhood photos are a highlight regardless of whether or not the viewers previously knew of Daniels. Hearing about a magician’s childhood inspiration to perform magic is not unusual, but the way Phelan connects it to his tricks is especially satisfying. Phelan’s trick involving making his participants forget how to read is fun to watch. However, after he follows it up with a story about performing this effect on a teacher who told him he would never make it as a magician the audience surely appreciates it even more.
Whether or not Phelan is truly The Greatest Magician is up for the audience to decide, but he is definitely a resilient performer. Managing to keep his show on track in spite of numerous attempts to derail it, however lightheartedly, can not be easy. Phelan will impress his audience no matter how much they might try to resist.