MEMOIRS - 03 - Auditions

Some little time after I had taken up Conjuring, a friend of mine, who was on the Staff of the Moss Stoll Group of Music Hall and Theatre owners, gave me a letter of introduction to the manager of Messrs Keith Prouse and Co., who were then the leading

Theatrical and Entertainment Booking Agents in London, and I (poor mutt), thinking I was good enough for a few private engagements as a Society Entertainer went down and presented my letter of introduction, and asked for an interview. I was eventually shown into the Manager’s office and was received by a kindly but very business-like gentleman, who listened with patience to all I had to say. He then asked me to show him a few card tricks, to enable him to judge my style and ability; so I pulled a pack of cards out of my pocket and started. I had just finished my first trick, when he said, "That will do, young man, why waste my time?, come back and see me again in seven years time, as by then you might be some use to us. Good morning".

London is certainly a hard place for the beginner, as only the best are wanted, but at the same time, although it is a hard school, it offers plenty of opportunities for getting experience; and there is no better place in the world than London for the man or woman who is keen on getting into the front line of entertainers; but the struggle to get known is heart breaking and discouraging. Unless one is very keen and full of enthusiasm, they break down under the set backs and disappointments. I remember a fairly good performer who had come over from the United States of America, and had managed to get an audition at the Palace theatre of Varieties and when half way through his show, a voice called out, telling him to "Cut it out", and the curtain came down with a rush and he was a back number. This rebuff upset him so much that he gave up magic for good.

It might interest you to know how an audition was conducted by agents in London in my early days, so I will describe one of my auditions given to a very well known firm of Theatrical and Concert Agents in the West end. First of all I worked up a programme suitable for a concert turn, and when I had this well rehearsed, I wrote to the agents and asked them to give me an audition; and on the day fixed, I went down with my props. I was conducted to the basement where a pukka little stage had been fixed up with lights, curtains etc. I was told to prepare my show, and when I was ready, to ring the bell and someone would come down and witness my performance. I set my stage, rang the bell and waited. In a short time, the gentleman who was to report on my performance came down, accompanied by his Secretary, who was to make short-hand notes of his

comments. When they were settled, I was told to start. Well, I found that to perform to an audience of two was a very trying ordeal, especially when your best jokes and patter were received in dead silence. It somehow cramps your style and freezes you up, especially when you are just putting over your best effect and you notice that the adjudicator is having a mild flirtation with his lady Secretary, and apparently not taking the slightest notice of your performance. You do your grand finale in dead silence, and then a voice says, "Is that all?" and you say "Yes, thank God", and the voice says, "All right, call in and see me in my office when you have packed up, and we will talk matters over."

The fairest way, as I said before, to give an artiste a ‘try-out’ is to put him on as an extra turn or as an item on a concert programme; he has a chance then of performing under natural conditions, and the audience are, after all, the best judges. I later gave an audition in a large town in Africa, but I will have more to say about that further on.