MagicFest’s Wizard World Gathering has incredible potential as an event. Harry Potter is obviously hugely popular, and magicians are ideally suited to bring the magic of Harry Potter into the muggle world. There are certainly elements of the Wizard World Gathering that rise to the occasion. The décor is incredibly detailed, the food and drink vendors have an admirable commitment to the theme, and framing the magic shows as “lessons” is an excellent way to create Hogwarts magic from stage magic. However, the magicians themselves do not feel consistently committed to the Harry Potter theme, preventing it from being a cohesive event, and a few issues in the arrangement of the night detract slightly from its success.
The magic shows begin with R Paul Wilson’s “Expert Magic”. From the start this is an outlier to the claimed theme, lacking in relevance to Harry Potter. But to his credit, Wilson’s act itself is suitably entertaining; displaying his range of coin tricks and pickpocket-based card tricks. Wilson may have misjudged the venue when planning one of his final tricks, which features him and several volunteers seated around a table. Due to the layout of the theatre this is difficult to see, even from the middle of the audience. The final effect is nevertheless impressive.
Kevin Quantum’s “Levitation Demonstrations” has an appreciably more Harry Potter theme. Quantum takes a science fiction approach to this fantasy world, framing his show as his quest to discover a scientific means to levitate. One of his tricks involving audience volunteers is really more of a trust exercise than a proper magic trick, which makes it all the more remarkable that Quantum is able to seamlessly include it in his act. Quantum’s act feels less like a collection of tricks and more like a coherent theatrical production, with an admirable blend of his own magical style with the theme given to him.
“Time Travel 101” with John Henry Blackwood unfortunately often feels more hindered than helped by its theme. Blackwood spends an inordinate amount of the middle of his act on a trick involving a toy plunger that is charming enough in and of itself but is only very loosely related to his own time travel concept. However, he begins and ends with tricks that do genuinely use his theme to enhance the overall effect. The stickers on the trunk that he uses as a table and the deathly hallows charm on his clothing are a lovely nods to the aesthetic of the evening.
Magic aside, there are a few issues that came up with the Wizard World Gathering itself. As attendants enter the Assembly Roxy they are handed tickets with a couple of timings of the magic shows, but it is not explained that it is necessary to bring the ticket to that show time to be guaranteed a seat. Many who were new to MagicFest took these timings as suggestions or reminders, and in the absence of an official explanation it fell to those who had attended previous similar MagicFest events to explain the system. Also, in spite of the online description of the event as a party, the event really still feels like a series of magic shows. Not necessarily a bad thing, but not what one is led to expect. There are few other activities in the central hall, and some are unexpectedly shut over an hour before the end of the event. Additionally the Harry Potter quiz, while fun, could have done with a few more challenging questions.
That being said, the attention to detail in the decoration of the venue is absolutely fantastic. The central hall is decorated as the Great Hall, and includes an intricately set up photo backdrop. The common room, where the quiz is held, features a wall papered in book-print, and the bathroom even includes a snake sticker by one of the taps. These details create a delightful atmosphere that is a highlight of the event. Creating the right atmosphere is so crucial to events like this one, and for its flaws there are moments when attendees at the Wizard World Gathering feel truly transported to Hogwarts.