The world’s best magicians are gathering in Canada this week
When Shane Cobalt was eight years old, a parent inadvertently launched him on a journey of a lifetime.
“I saw my grandfather doing a card trick at a family reunion. And it really fooled me,” Cobalt says.
He had been a victim of the “sucker effect”, where everyone in the room except you knows how a trick is done.
“No one in my family would tell me how it worked, which if you think about it, was pretty messed up.”
Fast forward to today and Cobalt is representing Canada at the International Federation of Magical Societies (FISM) World Championship of Magic in Quebec City.
This week, thousands of magicians from over 50 countries are taking part in this one-of-a-kind competition, where 110 magicians hope to win the coveted grand prize and the title of world’s best magician.
It’s the first time the competition has been held outside of Europe and Asia, which Canadian magician and 2009 magic grand prize winner Shawn Farquhar says is an emotional moment.
“I literally cried on the spot,” said Farquhar after learning that Quebec would be the host city for the 2018 competition in Korea. “As a Canadian, my heart swelled 10 times its size”
First held in 1948, the championship is held every three years, although this year’s event was delayed by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition to competition, magicians will trade secrets, attend “jam sessions” and even sell their illusions to the highest bidder.
“I’m very terrified”
Two Canadians are competing this year, including Yannick Lacroix of Quebec and Cobalt, who will compete in the close-up card magic category.
“I’m very terrified,” Cobalt told CBC News. He qualified for the championship after competing in an event last fall for the first time.
The Toronto-based magician says there’s more stress and excitement when you think about the audience.
“That’s literally every great magician I grew up reading about…or ask[ed] for an autograph who’s gonna be there now watching me do this deed.”
There’s a lot at stake for magicians, according to Canadian illusionist Greg Frewin.
“If you even place in the top three of this competition, your life changes,” he says.
Frewin speaks from experience winning first place in the General Magic category at the 1994 World Championships in Yokohama, Japan. He currently performs at the Greg Frewin Theater in Niagara Falls, Ontario, and trains the next generation of magicians. One of his students, Ding Yang from China, is also competing in FISM.
“I can’t divulge what she does, but I will say this, there’s a part of her act that no one, male or female, has ever done and probably won’t do for a long time because of skill level. and the skill set plus magic it takes.”
Canada’s success in magic
Renée-Claude Auclair is president and co-organizer of the current FISM World Championships, as well as president of the Canadian Association of Magicians. Auclair hopes that hosting the competition in Canada will bring more awareness to magic at home.
“I don’t think in North America it’s as well known and recognized…the level of competition or how important it is,” she says.
Auclair in her youth was a diver, but when she began to get involved in the world of magic later in her life, she realized that Canadian magicians didn’t have the support system she had in her life. another career.
WATCH | Shane Cobalt shares a few tricks:
“I was blessed with all of these tools when I was young and didn’t see the same type of sponsorship or support,” she says.
For established Canadian magicians, change can happen quickly. After winning the grand prize at the 2009 championships in Beijing, Farquhar’s career went to another level.
“Ellen DeGeneres invited me on the show, that was kind of the first thing, which was kind of crazy,” Farquhar said. He made headlines around the world, but says it was “a little quieter in Canada”.
Hosting the event on Canadian soil could help raise the profile of Canadian magicians.
“The more we talk about magic and healing, the more magicians perform and the better off we become,” says Farquhar.
The proof is in the thousands of magicians who are not in competition but who are still in Quebec for the weekend. One of them is Farhan Islam, who is called Brown Magic. The Montreal magician grew up practicing magic in Bangladesh after seeing American illusionist David Blaine on television.
“I found something and started doing it on the streets of Bangladesh,” he says.
Islam hopes to compete for Bangladesh at the next FISM championships and is in Quebec to check the level of competition. He says he knew Frewin before coming to Canada and calls Frewin and Farquhar “superstars”.
“They are very inspiring,” he says. “They’re all rockstars”
modern day magic
Farquhar says top hats and capes come to mind when people think of magic, but really, at its core, magic is about something else.
“Nowadays when you see magic, it’s not about pulling rabbits out of hats. It’s not about a top hat and a tail. It’s really to create a sense of wonder and allow people to escape,” he says.
This feeling of wonder can exist even between magicians. One of Farquhar’s duties in Quebec will be to lecture to some of his peers.
“Magicians rarely get to tell how their secrets work. I will trick them and then teach them,” he says.
The desire to know why you were cheated on can be a powerful motivator, something that fueled Cobalt’s journey to the world championships, which began when he was cheated on by his grandfather.
“He planted an incredible seed that grew a remarkable tree that became my career.”