With his agenda packed with international travel, you might think the illusionist Brian Role` has duplicated himself to be everywhere at the same time. Yet this time he agreed to sit down and tell us about his life – with no tricks up his sleeve.
Who is Brian Role` in the eyes of Brian Role`?
Brian Role`: When looking at the man in the mirror, I see two sides to my persona. The rarely seen side of me is an average person. He is shy, sensitive yet persistent; someone who enjoys spending some time away from being a magician, being around his family and the closest of friends.
Then there is the other side of the persona, who follows his greatest passion for a living – and that is entertaining people with an artistic misinterpretation of the truth through an enchanting performance. This artistic misinterpretation is not just a targeted deception in the form of a trick, but a complete journey, usually through music, visual and physical means. Even if it is for just a short while, this journey allows people to forget their problems, inspires them to look ahead in their own lives by doing impossible things. This is the job of Brian Role`, the magician.
From the very beginning I had that desire to be able to deliver to people something I was truly genuine about. That alone has enabled me to land thousands of performances worldwide on a fully professional basis, most importantly as a full-time career. When one has authenticity in what they do and truly believes in it, then everything else will fall into place. That is what has happened to me.
Uncle’s cards and the opportunity of a lifetime.
Lola and you have been awarded The Merlin Award. Can you tell us more about this title?
BR: The Merlin Award is to magic what the Oscars are to the movies, what the Emmy is for television, and what the Tony is for theater. Some of the previous winners of the Merlin Award include David Copperfield, Penn & Teller, Criss Angel, Jeff Mc Bride and several other mainstream magicians. The criteria that the voting members of the International Magician’s Society consider in their nominations and selection of winners of the Merlin Award are talent, showmanship, originality, skills, and above all the rare ability to entertain under any conditions.
World President of I.M.S. Tony Hassini Presents Brian Role` & Lola Palmer with Merlin Award at Casino Malta
It is truly the furthest step can achieve without having to compete. We earned the ‘International Magicians Society Merlin Award 2017 – Best Magic Dinner Show – Brian Role` and Lola Palmer’ through our weekly performance at the Chamber of Mysteries. The Chamber of Mysteries is a weekly magic dinner show held in the only magic theatre in Malta – which we set up ourselves from scratch. Our show has been running since 2011. We only take up very few people per show as an audience, and still, we have had thousands from several countries attending the show. Our spectators have rated us highly on TripAdvisor. We have received a ‘Certificate of Excellence’ award from TripAdvisor every year ever since we started. This led us to international recognition from the I.M.S., and the Merlin Award has now opened the door to further international opportunities for both Lola and I.
It was amazing that the world president of the I.M.S. Tony Hassini flew in all the way from New York to present us this award during an event held at Casino Malta in June. We are the first local magicians to have brought such a prestigious award to Malta, and we are also happy that we have opened the door, enabling other future local magicians to peruse the same achievements so that magic never dies on our island.
You’ve been a professional magician for the past twenty years. How did it all start? When did you and Lola cross paths?
BR: It all started when I was about five years old, when most children my age wanted to be a policeman, a fireman or an astronaut. My father used to work in one of the best hotels on the island, and during the staff children’s Christmas parties a magician would often entertain us kids. That and the several birthday parties I got to attend, where a magician was entertaining us kids, got me interested in magic at a very early stage. But it was my uncle, visiting from Australia, who got me hooked unto magic with a simple card trick that he taught me how to perform. I perform this trick quite effectively till this very day.
Then in the 80s Paul Daniels appeared on local television, and I was quite amused by his persona and performances. I was hooked. There was no internet at the time, so I had to acquire books from the library or purchase them from book stores. These were basic books, but still I thought myself the basics of magic, one of my main passions by then. When David Copperfield appeared for the first time on local television, causing the Statute of Liberty to vanish and performing some other amazing things, I saw right through the illusions and understood the meaning behind them. I understood that it certainly is not about fooling people.
I didn’t get to perform my own show until I was in my late 20s. For a performance to be successful, you need many different skills. So, I joined the local magic club, Ring 202 Malta, then I joined other international magic clubs, the International Brotherhood of Magicians (I.B.M) and the International Magician’s Society (I.M.S). I first studied acting and movement, then later directing and lighting. This led me not to rely on solely the magic but on a number of artistic measures to create the atmosphere that I wanted.
In 1997 I performed my complete magic show for the first time in front of an unfamiliar audience, not friends or family, and I was humbly paid for the performance. This led to several other engagements and bookings. Just two years after my first complete performance, I met Eva Julia Christiie, an internationally acclaimed female illusionist, who happened to be performing her big illusion show in Malta during a European tour. Luckily I got to speak with Eva after her show and must have shown so much genuine enthusiasm that she offered me an opportunity of a lifetime, that of performing my act within her show in Mexico.
At the same time, Lola Palmer, a professional dancer, performed with various dance groups in Malta and abroad, from hotels to cruise ships, also with other magicians. Lola Palmer was assisting another local magician when Eva Julia Christiie met Lola and talked to her whilst she was in Malta. Unknowingly to us, Eva envisioned us together and wanted to create a magic duo never seen in Malta before. As if by magic, Eva Julia Christiie got both Lola and me together, knowing well that we both shared the same professional ambitions and mind-frame. So we began working on new acts, developing a different style from what was performed on the island at the time.
Our uniqueness led us to perform across the world with our first major contract being in Mallorca, Spain, where we spent six months appearing daily in all the best hotels on the Balearic Island. We went to other countries including China, India, Dubai and most of Europe, in hotels, theatres, and on cruise ships. These were all long-term professional contracts on a full-time basis and not just one off performances, although we have had several of those too. This is where we truly acquired the experience, skills and professionalism to pursue our ambitions until we created our own Dinner Show attraction in Malta, the Chamber of Mysteries. Since then Lola Palmer has been such an essential part of my life, both professionally and on a personal basis.
Magic is copyrighted!
Is it true that it’s forbidden to share magicians’ code? What happens if one does?
BR: Magic is the only performing art where the true artistic and technical value is concealed from the audience in order to create the illusion desired. If a magician is a member of any magic club, and most are, they are bound to an ethical oath of not divulging any magic secret to lay people or non-members of the club. This does not mean that magicians are an exclusive community based on secrets. Rather, it is a community that accepts anyone who is truly interested in the art of magic and not just curious about the working of particular effects. What people outside the world of magic do not know is that a particular magic effect can be either self-created or has been created by someone else. That ethical oath not to share the secrets of magic means that the person who created the effect can be credited with the creation, and if someone would like to perform the effect they should seek permission to perform it from the creator if it is not on the market, or pay in form of performing rights if it is. This is why most magic items are very expensive, because you are not actually paying for the item itself, but in fact you are paying towards the contribution of the creator of the effect and for performance rights.
Anyone who exposes the secrets of magic, especially those that they did not create themselves, have no place in the magic community. They have not understood its key principle, which is to respect and appreciate the creations of others and share it with the community in order for the art to flourish. Those who are members of a magic club or society and intentionally expose magic usually have their memberships revoked and are stripped of any titles and awards they any have achieved through the same societies and clubs. This makes it difficult for them to work on a truly professional basis.
Real magic, what can you tell us about it?
BR: Real magic. What is it? Does it exist? In my eyes, real magic is the sun that rises in morning and sets in the evening, every single day without taking a day off. Real magic is the feeling you get when you fall in love, when you meet the person of your dreams. Real magic is being able to live peacefully with people of all beliefs, races and sexes. On a more personal basis, real magic is meeting a person like Lola, who was willing to share the same dreams. Real magic is those fantastic moments we shared together performing in places we never thought we would have performed in and achieving things like the Merlin Award.
Photo: Jason Muscat
What is the difference between magic and illusion?
BR: When studying the magical arts, you will understand that ‘Magic’ is the term which several other types of magical performances branch out from. These are: Close up Magic, Parlor Magic, Stage Magic, Escapology, Hypnotism, Street Magic, Walk Around Magic, TV Magic and Illusions among others. Out of each category other branches spud out; for example from Close Up Magic you can have coin magic, card magic and so on. From Illusion you get Mega Illusions, Stage Illusions, Micro Illusion and others. Illusion is the term used to identify an artistic performance where the audience perceives a different vision of what is really happening. Although not always the case, an illusion is usually an act of magic using a person or a large item, such as a vehicle. Sawing a person in half is considered to be an illusion, and not a magic trick, because it involves a person who ‘appears’ to have been cut in two. A mega illusion is when larger items, buildings or moments are used in an illusion, such as the appearance or disappearance of a plane or building. Through years of studying visual, physiological and logical concepts, the illusionist is then capable of creating the right conditions to apparently make something vanish into or appear out of thin air. A coin or paper floating in the air is considered an micro illusion as it uses the same principles of a stage illusion on a micro/ close-up level.
Who inspires you?
BR: When it comes to life, my parents. One worked hard to provide food for the family and the best education for his child whilst the other thought me how to keep both feet on the ground, be humble and enjoy the little things in life. When it comes to people in the spotlight, I grew up listening to Madonna, George Michael and Michael Jackson, so I was musically inspired by them. David Copperfield, Siegfried and Roy, and Paul Daniels inspired my magic. The music inspirations mingled with the magic inspirations to become what we perform to date. Eva Julia Christiie has inspired me greatly. Through her I got to experience what I could only dream of at the time, working with the greatest illusions, Siberian and white tigers in a major illusion show over a stretch of 35 shows for an audience of 7,000 people at each performance. Through her I was taught to believe in myself and that everything is possible.
However, the greatest inspiration came from a book called ‘Rich Dad, Poor dad’, written in 1997 by Robert Kiyosaki and Sharon Lechter. This book led me to take one of the biggest and scariest decisions of my life way back in 2002 when I decided to leave my full-time job and pursue magic on a professional basis.