Casting a spell on the cast!
Article by Diane Parkes for the Birmingham Post / Birmingham Mail group to tie in with a production of The Witches at Birmingham Rep.
What do you need to turn children into mice and make witches into giants? Well, a magician of course.
Step in illusionist Paul Kieve who has created a whole host of special effects for the adaptation of Roald Dahl’s classic The Witches.
It is the fifth time Paul has worked on the show, alongside David Wood, who adapted the tale of two small boys and a grandma battling against witches.
All the cast members involved in the illusions are sworn to secrecy and while Paul is more than happy to talk about the show, his lips are sealed on the mechanics. And he is still working even as we speak. Our interview takes place hours before the first preview but he is on the hunt for a slight adaptation to one of the effects.
“You just have to make sure it is right,”he says. “With magic or illusion there are no half measures, it has to be exactly right for it to work.”
Magic Circle member Paul has an impressive CV when it comes to creating illusions for the theatre. He has worked on a host of West End shows including Scrooge with Tommy Steele and Richard Chamberlain, The Witches of Eastwick, pantomime, and is currently creating effects for a Lord of the Rings musical.
He was also the first real magician to be called on for help with a Harry Potter film and his work can be seen in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
“I was asked to do a ‘show and tell’, in which I stood in a freezing marquee for two hours presenting my ideas. They were really helpful in adapting them for the show,” he says.
“So, for example, I showed them an illusion of making a note fold by itself and they used this at the end of the film when the map folds itself up. We spent days doing that shot.
“They were keen to use magic as well as special effects as it gave the film a whole new layer so Iwas involved in about five or six scenes.
“For one part I had to teach all the children in the film how to do tricks. This bit was actually cut but it has made it to the deleted scenes in the DVD, which I was very pleased about. But DanielRadcliffe, who plays Harry,was not in that scene and he came up to me afterwards and said ‘I can’t believe everyone around here now knows magic tricks except me’.
“So we did some one-to-one sessions whenever he had some time off. He practised very hard and got very good.”
Paul says Harry Potter was hard work but great fun and he was even given a cameo role – look out for him in the pub.
It is just one of a number of projects he has been working on, which have also seen him become a wizard on a website, and a consultant to the Guinness Book of Records.
“I am lucky because there is always something new to do,” he says. “I always said I wanted no two days to be the same and that is very true.”
Paul was a youngster when he performed his first magic trick.
“As a child I was totally obsessed with a trick called the zig-zag girl and I wanted my parents to buy it for me,” he says. “Instead, my mum said I should buy some wood and make it – and I did. I then performed it at school. I got my real lucky break because I did a pop video with Sade. At the time she wasn’t very well known but it was that song ‘Your Love is King’ which really caught on for her. She was so supportive. She would mention me on Saturday morning television and she would always ring and tell me first. I was only 16.”
And it was Paul’s work on the video which gained him a slot in a London theatre and brought him to the attention of the producers of the musical The Invisible Man. And 37-year-old Paul has not looked back since.
He retains a real enthusiasm for his role. “I was never interested in that TV show patter which is followed by a trick,” he says. “I always loved the idea of creating illusions in front of an audience. Creating that real magical moment is what it is all about.”