THE DISAPPEARING OF VINCENT GAMBINI
♪ [SONG: "CHORE OF ENCHANTMENT" BY HOWE GELB] ♪ ♪ Got to go now ♪ ♪ Still so much left behind ♪ ♪ not ready to go.♪ ♪ I'm already out of time. ♪ ♪ That's the chore ♪ ♪ the chore ♪ ♪ of enchantment ♪ [WOMAN 1] Why don't you sit here? Then you can see really well. [BACKGROUND CHATTER] [LAUGHTER] [BACKGROUND CHATTER] [WOMAN 2] ...do you mean towards you? [BACKGROUND CHATTER] [WOMAN 3] ...I'm just....So that I can get an angle, I can move up if you prefer?
let me just... [DRUMROLL ON SNARE] [APPLAUSE] [AUGUSTO] This is, Hugo - calling Hugo, first time [PHONE RINGING] [HUGO, ON PHONE] Hey, Augusto. [AUGUSTO] Hey! Hey, Hugo. [HUGO] How are you doing? [AUGUSTO] I'm OK. [PHONE RINGING] [HUGO] Oh my God. Sorry, Augusto I have to take this.
I'll call you back, bye. [PHONE RINGING] [BIRDS SINGING] [♪ PIANO PLAYING IN MINOR KEY ♪] [PHONE RINGING] [HUGO, ON PHONE] Hi, Augusto, sorry about that. [AUGUSTO] No, it's OK. Yeah, yeah, all right. So, well, shall I tell you about the video? [HUGO] Yeah. Yeah, go ahead. [AUGUSTO] Well, the background is, is this - so earlier this year, I finally managed to complete sort of do the last finishing touches, if you like, to the show The Chore of Enchantment.
[HUGO] Yeah. [AUGUSTO] It's this magic show in which Vincent Gambini, you know, having spent most of his life quite happily just practising magic in his study, you know, sort of blissfully unaware of anything else happening in the world. He suddenly starts finding out about the news, you know, Brexit, Trump, you know, ecological catastrophe. And he has a massive crisis like, you know, like "what's the point of magic at times like these?" And so he basically finds himself unable to go ahead with his magic show and he ends up collapsing on stage. [HUGO] Hang on a minute. I'm sorry.
I think, I think the dog's got itself wrapped around a tree. [DOG YELPS] I'm just going to... Can you call me back? [AUGUSTO] Sure, sure. I'll call you back. All right. Bye, bye.
[AUGUSTO LAUGHS] [AUGUSTO] Hey don't you just love magic? You know, when the magician does something amazing and everyone's like, "woah, how you do that?" The magician's like, "Oh, I can't tell you!" And everyone's like, "Oh yeah, of course, ho ho ho!" Magic is great. It's great because out of nothing, you can make something appear. That's what we do as magicians, we make things appear. Once we've made something appear, we can then make things disappear. And in a nutshell, that's all that happens in a magic show.
But what I'd like to talk about is politics, social, environmental... issues. [PHONE RINGING] [HUGO] Augusto. [AUGUSTO] Hi! Hi, Hugo. Hi, is this a good time? [HUGO] Yeah, yeah, it's fine, no problem.
[AUGUSTO] Is the dog ok? [HUGO] Oh, yeah, yeah I have to keep her on a tether when I'm doing something else. And she, she kind of, it's a long one and she wraps herself around trees and then starts yowling. You were saying about ecological catastrophe or something? [AUGUSTO] Yeah. Yeah. So all this kind of news starts coming in and he - and Gambini as a magician sort of feels that he's unable to carry on with his craft, his show. So it's like the show can't really go ahead. I lined up a tour, sort of February until June 2020, to show the finished version of the piece.
But because of the pandemic, I only managed to do two out of the nine dates. [HUGO] Yeah. [AUGUSTO] And, and annoyingly, I didn't manage to have this show sort of filmed properly. So there isn't like a good record of it. [HUGO] Yeah.
Right, right. [AUGUSTO] And basically I considered rewriting the whole show to fit with Covid, and maybe touring it next year, but I realised it wouldn't work because really, the show really was about the magician being overwhelmed by Brexit and Trump and politics. And it's like the concerns have shifted too much. It's like we're in a different reality, you know.
[HUGO] Yeah. [AUGUSTO] And so I just feel that the show has been rendered completely void overnight. And the funny thing is that, you know, The Chore of Enchantment was a show about a show that can't go ahead because of global news events and now because of Covid, it genuinely can't go ahead. So in a funny kind of way, the show is doubly cancelled, if that makes sense, you know? [HUGO] Yeah, yeah, absolutely.
[AUGUSTO] And because I don't have a good video recording of it, I thought, well, how could I make a document, a film let's say, as a way of bringing the project to a close and have some kind of record, you know. it would be a kind of documentation not of the show, but of its cancellation. [HUGO] Yeah.Yeah.
You probably need some imagery that lifts you away from the performance space, whether that's shots of your flat, out of the window. The seafront, empty streets. I think you need to find some sort of way of describing absence? [AUGUSTO] Right.
[HUGO] I'm - I'm very keen on a kind of imagistic dissonance. Say you have an image of pigeons, pigeons in the square, and you pair that with a text about the show getting cancelled. I don't know why pigeons came into my head. [AUGUSTO] Yeah, yeah, [HUGO] Yeah. Sometimes images that aren't quite right can actually focus attention on what's important. Somehow things that take you away from the main content can actually clarify it.
[AUGUSTO] Right. [HUGO] I feel that whenever images become too illustrative you know, if they're too like the stuff that we're talking about, you kill both sides, you kill the language and you kill the images. So it's about finding images that kind of sit with what you're saying. But aren't what you're saying, they act as a counterpoint, if you like.
[AUGUSTO] Now, obviously, we can't be in the same place, we can't work in the same room, but perhaps I can send you bits of footage to look at? [HUGO] Yeah, yeah, yeah, of course. Yeah, whatever, whatever works for you. But that's fine. And you can call me whenever you want. I won't always have my phone on me, because Oscar's been stealing it and putting it in airplane mode and so it's not really my phone anymore.
But you're welcome to leave a voicemail. [♪ PIANO MELODY IN MINOR KEY ♪] [AUGUSTO] OK, so I'll start again from the beginning. I remember it was in Colchester. At the arts centre. And I remember walking on stage to the sound of a drum roll, wearing a sleeping mask. And there was a secret accomplice sitting in the front.
We'd arranged it so that the accomplice would choose the ace of hearts. That was the plan, that the accomplice would choose the ace of hearts. What I couldn't have predicted was that 60 minutes into the show, I'd be lying on the floor unconscious.
[PHONE RINGNG] Hi, Hugo, it's me again, just trying to reach you. I'll try again in a bit or call me back if you get this. All right, cheers, bye. [SHARP EXHALE] [SHARP EXHALE] [SHARP EXHALE] [SHARP EXHALE] [AUGUSTO, ON VOICEMAIL RECORDING] Hi again, Hugo, I thought I would try and leave you a longer message, I wanted to tell you about the props from the show because the coins, and oh, and the flyers as well. I was looking at the flyers this morning. I've got stacks and stacks of them and they're all suddenly unusable.
And then I realised, hold on. It's not just these flyers that are unusable. All the objects, all the props are suddenly unusable and the various sleight of hand manipulations developed over the last four years, the gags, the script, the delivery, the pauses, basically the whole show is suddenly unusable. It's... Yeah, it's an object without purpose.
And now, of course, this is all fairly irrelevant, given what's happening outside the confines of my flat, the empty streets, people sheltering, people getting sick. But here's the thing, the unused magic props are now, they're now part of that bigger picture. What I mean is this: I can't use the cards, I can't use the microphones, I can't use the handkerchief. They've lost their purpose. But because of that, when I look at the props now. I find...
that they helped me to make sense of the pandemic, they helped me to understand on a physical level that everything has come to a halt. It's almost like the props are telling me to focus on what really matters. This might be the poor man's version of The Chore of Enchantment, because it fits within a 60 minute thing and it's using what I've already got. [HUMS TUNE SOFTYLY] [AUGUSTO, ON VOICEMAIL RECORDING] Hi, Hugo.
So I've just been watching some of the rehearsal footage, which I made mostly between 2016, I think, and 2019, 2020. I don't know if any of these are usable. I don't know if they are. I mean, they're really kind of boring to watch in a sense. But I've been looking through them.
And they're just these private videos, it's literally just me recording almost like notes. Note to self kind of thing, [COIN HITTING FLOOR] but I made hundreds of these and they're kind of almost like a strange document in themselves, a document of the show being made. I'm struck by all the different places I've been just to, to make the show so... my flat or various rooms inside the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts at the University of Sussex or ARC in Stockton, also Shoreditch Town Hall, just these different, different rooms. Yeah, the idea of you need 10,000 hours of practise in order to become good at something, and that's kind of a lie, I think it's, you need a lot more. And to quantify it seems a little odd because actually, as long as you're doing something, as long as you're performing a show, for example, that involves sleight of hand, you're basically just, you're just practising every day pretty much, you're just doing.
You just working all the time on it, I feel. I don't think you do 10,000 hours and then you achieve something, you know, but the other thing that strikes me about these videos is how they... like who they are for. I guess on the one hand, of course, it's, I mean, they're for me, clearly, they're just kind of meant as private videos. It's like sketches, you know, it's like an artist's sketchbook or whatever.
It's like studies, an ongoing study. Kind of thing. And so clearly they're for me, but what's funny is that, of course, I'm always rehearsing bits of the show, I'm constantly addressing an imaginary audience. I'm constantly going, "Hey, hi, everyone!" And so in a funny kind of way, I feel that these videos are... Well, they are rehearsing the moment I'm going to meet the audience.
It's almost like over and over again I'm preparing for meeting the audience and preparing for the way I'm going to look. I'm going to talk what I'm going to say, what I'm going to do, the various actions. It's almost like someone sort of standing in front of the mirror getting ready to go out. But it's - so it's like that, but extended to last for five years.
[CHUCKLES] And I guess I wonder if that's, that's why I can perform this, because the moment you meet the audience it's so sculpted and choreographed, overly prepared and arranged. Yeah, I guess these videos are, like, you could - if they were assembled as a work in their own right. I would probably call it "Getting Ready To Meet You" La prima cosa che potrei fare é fare cosí: track! Here is the last sequence. I'm sort of wondering if it works to - because I'm thinking of Edinburgh, heads kind of showing it up a little bit further up, I guess. Might be a kind of - [CARD HITTING FLOOR] Nice one. variation I can do.
But then the only thing I really need to - when I'm here, I can take a break over three cards by injogging the third and then here, I think I could maybe either move that king a little bit, like that as I, as I flip the cards over and sort of do a kind of very cheeky sideslip, which - so it doesn't matter where it is in the deck, so that I could do a triple do a triple to kind of condition this idea of putting it in the middle, and then I can do this, and then I could sort of... Yeah. Do this. [CLICKS TONGUE] Then maybe I can do...
Do this Don't know how effective this is, but... I'm doing it far too many times now. [♪ SLOW JAZZ ON PIANO ♪] [QUIET LAUGHTER FROM UNSEEN AUDIENCE] [♪ JAZZ PIANO CONTINUES ♪] [AUDIENCE SOUNDS: SHUFFLING, COUGHING] [♪ JAZZ PIANO CONTINUES ♪] [AUDIENCE LAUGHING] [♪ JAZZ PIANO CONTINUES ♪] [SPORADIC CLAPS] [♪ JAZZ PIANO CONTINUES ♪] [AUDIENCE LAUGHING] [♪ JAZZ PIANO CONTINUES ♪] [AUDIENCE LAUGHING] [♪ JAZZ PIANO CONTINUES ♪] [AUDIENCE LAUGHING] [♪ JAZZ PIANO CONTINUES ♪] [AUDIENCE LAUGHING] [♪ JAZZ PIANO CONTINUES ♪] [AUDIENCE LAUGHING] [♪ JAZZ PIANO CONTINUES ♪] [AUDIENCE LAUGHING] [AUGUSTO, ON VOICEMAIL RECORDING] Hi Hugo, still me.
Not sure if you're getting these messages? Or if you're getting the footage, the footage of Brighton in lockdown, but anyway, I guess it's a shame we can't be in the same place. We can't be in the same room to do this. [APPLAUSE] Well, I guess it's a shame the whole tour is cancelled, that I can't be in the same room with the other people in the audience.
It's kind of funny, because... When I'm performing the show, I am - well, I am alone on stage, but with an audience present. And now, well now I'm just alone in my flat without an audience. Or perhaps you're my audience, Hugo [LAUGHS] although... I don't know if you're even there or if you're hearing this. [♪ JAZZ PIANO CONTINUES ♪] Anyway, I'll just - well, I'll just keep filming stuff and sending it to you.
[♪ JAZZ PIANO CONTINUES ♪] [AUDIENCE LAUGHING] [APPLAUSE] [♪ JAZZ PIANO CONTINUES ♪] [AUDIENCE LAUGHING] [APPLAUSE] [SNAPPING] [SNAPPING] [SNAPPING] [DISTANT TRAFFIC] [AUGUSTO, ON VOICEMAIL RECORDING] Hi, Hugo. Hi, I hope you're well. I've been rewatching some of the films that I watched whilst I was making the show. They're all films from which I blatantly stole a few ideas, so - for example, I really loved the scene in Mulholland Drive. It's the scene in which the singer on stage, she's singing and she collapses mid song.
But her voice carries on because, well it turns out she was lip synching and I have always loved this scene, so I took the idea of collapsing and yet my voice carrying on speaking and I did it in the show. I do it at a point where I'm having a go at the audience for turning up at a magic show, you know, in times like these when the world is on fire. And then, yeah, then there's this gorgeous film and it's called By The Time It Gets Dark and...
it just, it just plays so well with ambiguity, you're never sure if what you're seeing is the making of a film, or the film itself. I feel, you never know if you're sort of backstage or on stage, I guess, and I just love that ambiguity and I try to do it a bit in The Chore of Enchantment. I don't know if I really managed.
[DISTANT TRAFFIC] [♪ ACOUSTIC GUITAR ♪] [AUGUSTO] What are you doing? You're at a magic show, in times like these? Are you seeking escapist entertainment? What are you escaping from? I mean, I know I shouldn't be here, but it's my job. [AUDIENCE LAUGHING] What's your excuse? [AUDIENCE LAUGHING] Pathetic. [AUDIENCE LAUGHING] No one understands conjuring. And I can't explain it to you otherwise, the illusion is ruined.
It's as if we are in two separate worlds divided by an invisible border [WOMAN SINGING:] ♪ Llorando ♪ [AUGUSTO] And I bet most of you don't even know who Paul Daniels was [WOMAN SINGING:] ♪ Llorando ♪ [AUGUSTO] And the rest, you don't even care. This is a last magic show I do. I retire. Stupid job. Magic is a waste of time, and the waste of a life. I need to get out of this. [ECHOING] How do I get out of this? [INDISTINCT SHOUTS OF SWIMMERS] [AUGUSTO, ON VOICEMAIL RECORDING] Hey, Hugo, I was thinking about the applause at the theatre that it's well, that applause is a bit like a validation and that the performer really wants the audience's validation.
But that got me thinking about applause as a two way exchange, a kind of call and response. [BACKGROUND APPLAUSE] So the stage performer says something or does something like a magic trick, and then the audience respond through applause and then the performer might respond to that, the different magic trick. [BACKGROUND APPLAUSE ENDS] And then the applause, so there's a two way exchange. And on a very basic level, I think the applause is a way for the audience to signal presence.
You know, it's a way of saying "we are here." And the performer, of course, does the same thing by walking on stage and saying hello, and then the audience respond with applause to say "we are here." So I am here. We are here. I am here. We are here. I am here. We are here.
[♪ SLOW JAZZ ON PIANO ♪] [PROTESTORS CHANTING INDISTINCTLY] [PROTESTORS] No justice! No peace! No justice! No peace! No justice! No peace! No justice! No peace! No justice! No peace! No justice! No peace! No justice! No peace! No justice! No peace! Say it loud! No peace! Say it loud! End our silence! No more violence! End our silence! George Floyd! Say his name! George Floyd! Say his name! George Floyd! Say his name! George Floyd! Say his name! George Floyd! Say his name! [WHISTLE BLOWING, SNARE DRUM] [♪ JAZZ PIANO CONTINUES WITH PROTEST SOUNDS ♪] [CROWD CHEERING] [AUGUSTO, ON VOICEMAIL RECORDING] Hi, Hugo, it's me again. If you're getting this, I just wanted to say something, which is that, you know how I said that I never had the show recorded or at least not recorded well enough to use that footage? Well, it turns out that it's - that I might have been wrong. Yesterday, I watched that old footage of the show, and it's, it's actually not that bad.
It's actually alright. So, yeah, I don't know if you've, if you've started doing any work on the film, if you've started editing, I don't know. But my sense is that we don't really need to make a film about The Chore of Enchantment, you know, and its cancellation because the the show footage, it's, yeah, it's pretty good. So yeah, let me know if you get this, and I hope you're well. Ok, bye. [♪ PIANO PLAYING IN MINOR KEY ♪] [HUGO, ON PHONE] That was crap as well,wasn't it? [AUGUSTO] No, I thought that was alright! Well, if you want to do it again...
[HUGO] Yeah, I'll do it again. [AUGUSTO] Yeah, yeah. Shall I give you the, the prompt? [HUGO] Yeah, prompt me, yeah.