The nights are drawing in and the stage was set at The Berliner for the October instalment of The Curious Cabaret. I was honoured to join Magic Circle Magicians Chris Wilder and Max Francis for an evening of magical and mystical entertainment.
Three different personas shared their magic and mystery with a packed house. We witnessed mind reading, predictions, signed cards in wine bottles, cut and restored ropes, vanishing notes, and my own journey back in time to uncover The Lost Voices of History.
Through an exercise in mental visualisation, we travelled back to Leeds in 1940 to explore the complex world of young Roderick, a ten-year old boy who went about his days studying music and math, getting into fights, buying his copies of The Mickey Mouse Weekly, and shielding himself from the first air raids of World War II. But what was his most cherished possession and what clues did he leave for us?
We visited the cell of an unfortunate and fearful patient in the Colney Hatch Mental Asylum in Middlesex County, tapping into the mysterious energy of the keys to the wards and divining his state of mind, as well as his regimen of medications. The largest mental asylum in Europe, Colney Hatch had six miles of corridors and at one time housed none other than Jack the Ripper. It is now a residential complex called Princess Park Manor.
For the finale, we used our own 'shared community of human minds' to conjure the oft-forgotten linkage between the citizens of Nottingham and the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln in April 1865 at Ford's Theatre. This last exploration was an uncanny one.
In May 1865, a public meeting of the 'inhabitants of Nottingham,' held at the Exchange Hall 'unanimously resolved:'
That this meeting regards with horror, indignation, and abhorrence the appalling crime which has put an end to the life of President Lincoln.
This resolution was an extraordinary expression of solidarity between the people of Nottingham and those who mourned the loss of President Lincoln in the United States of America. The audience witnessed Lincoln's last speech, listened to the resolution, and learned of that fateful night on 14 April 1865, when John Wilkes Booth used a Derringer pistol to shoot the President while he enjoyed a performance of Our American Cousin in his box seat. The collective unconscious of the audience somehow knew of these events and helped us uncover this transatlantic connection.
Some say that history is simply 'one thing after another' or that the great books of history feature 'famous people and the consequences of their actions,' but what we explored at The Curious Cabaret is that history is about so much more. It lives in us, through us, and involves many lost voices.
Through the medium of magic, we were able to hear some of those voices for just a little while.
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