“Of the different types of magic I do, close-up is technically the most difficult,” says Chris Dinwoodie, performing a card trick with astounding speed and dexterity. A chosen card with my signature on it – the three of clubs – is inexplicably making its way from the bottom of the deck to the top again. Chris explains, “Stand-up magic is longer show, where I’ll prepare an extended routine for a much bigger audience. “ An individual trick might last a few minutes. You chat with the audience and maybe try to make them laugh. Stand-up is my specialty”
Chris certainly has the gift of the gab. He cracks a joke about asking girls to write their phone numbers on cards instead of signing them – but with no luck. During this gag, my signed card mysteriously replaces another card, and then flips back to its original position. A few more fancy shuffles of the pack follow. It’s mesmerising. The pack fans out but there’s no sign of the signed card. Then sounding as if something is stuck in his mouth, Chris adds, “But I like close-up magic, too.” He’s holding the 3 of clubs in his teeth – how it got there is magic.
Close-up magic is performed in front of small groups of people, using everyday items, like cards and coins, as props.
The nature of close-up magic means sleight-of-hand is relied on more than other forms.
Chris is also two-time Scottish Conjurers’ Association close-up magician of the year.
The man in the sparkly shirt and cosmic patter is full of impossible tricks, but the really impressive thing is that the 26-year-old full-time professional magician can do it in the first place.
In fact, he’s lucky to have the use of his right arm.
At the age of 17 an accident on a snakeboard (similar to a skateboard, but with two pivoting footplates at either end) when Chris was showing off, the resulted in a horrific injury to his right wrist.
He explained, “I went right over a kerb and mangled my arm. The bone was sticking out at a strange angle, but I was only interested in saving my board, which some heartless onlookers were trying to steal.
“You can see the metal plate in my arm if you look closely. I had pins coming out of my wrist for months.”
Chris, from Cambuslang, first became interested in magic as a four-year-old when he was shown a card trick by an older cousin, but he dedicated to the art following his broken arm.
“The cast stayed on for months and a lot of strength in the arm and hand had disappeared. I found a good way to help to help with that was to shuffle cards and practise tricks.
“Gradually, I started doing more and more tricks and it became more than a hobby.
“But my wrist can’t rotate as much as it used to, which can be a hindrance when you’re doing complicated tricks. I’ve come up with ways to work around it.”
Since then, Chris has defied his injury to become one of Scotland’s most highly rated magicians. He’s formed his company, Top Class Magic and has performed at an event attended by Princess Anne.
In December 2004 he joined the Scottish Conjurers Association (the Scottish version of The Magic Circle), becoming the youngest member by five years.
A year later he was performing magic at a Christmas party in a bar in Glasgow. They were so impressed he was asked to be their regular magician.
He now does everything from stage shows to weddings and corporate or private events.
Chris won the conjurers Association awards this year and last, performing in competition with other magicians in front of a panel of judges. This year he also won the Scottish Association of Magical Societies table magician contest – the first magician to win both of the contests in the same year, making him the Scottish table magician of the year.
Using the stage name “Woody”, he’s now considering an offer to be flown to Australia to perform at the wedding of an impressed audience member –and he’s performed at Glasgow’s Carling Academy and studio 24 in Edinburgh.
“I turned professional last November. I’d gone to University and got a job as an IT officer. It was well paid, but I knew I didn’t want to do it for the rest of my life. So I quit and took up magic full-time.
I can now devote more time to my shows.
In my first week as a full time magician I got my first booking, which was for a burlesque night in Glasgow. It had an audience of more than 2000 so I thought, ‘This is easy!’ But of course, it’s not like that all the time.
“The show went well, but afterwards I found someone was trying to break into my car. I chased him, forgetting my pockets were full of tricks.
I had rubber balls and cards dropping out of my pocket and long knots of handkerchiefs trailing from my sleeves. I must have looked strange to the policeman who came to take my statement.”
Chris didn’t let the incident put him off and is going from strength to strength. “Close-up magic has become a lot with the likes of David Blaine and Derren Brown. Anyone can go into a magic shop and buy a few tricks for little money.”
But even with a wealth of competitors and having limited mobility in his hand, Chris still manages to be Scotlands best close-up magician.
Now that’s magic!