Nigel Harrison is ready to bring a little magic to his community.
“I’ve noticed a real opportunity here,” he said about Harrison Hot Springs, where he’s lived for the last four years. “Tourism is a thing in Harrison, it seems to be growing … and I went, gee whiz, the one thing that’s missing for a tourist is entertainment.”
And Harrison thinks he has just what the village needs: a magic show.
Harrison has been practicing illusions since received his first magic set for Christmas when he was an 11-year-old in New Brunswick. As a teen, he performed for birthday parties, fairs and festivals, then moved on to corporate entertainment as an adult. He did magic shows for cruise ships on the Saint Lawrence Seaway, and now is starting up a new show at the Harrison Lake Hotel: An Intimate Evening of Illusion.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” Harrison said. “It’s not so much the performance piece, it’s just interacting with people in general I really enjoy — especially when it’s something as positive as magic.”
“I don’t lie to them, I don’t try to cheat them,” he continued. “It’s very much an honest interaction. They’re left to judge for themselves if what they’re seeing is believable or not. It’s my job to make it as believable as possible.”
When Harrison was growing up, spending his childhood in awe of television magicians like David Copperfield, the edge of believable was closer than it is now, where YouTube videos and internet searches can break down even the most complex magic trick into its component parts.
“With the internet, it’s created some interesting challenges,” Harrison said. “People like myself have to continually change the engineering side of how we do things.”
Luckily, that’s something Harrison has had plenty of experience with, thanks to years trying to emulate the magic tricks he saw on TV with the aid of library books.
“As a kid I would use my brother to kind of experiment in the backyard and build the apparatus that would allow me to float people. It was pretty amateur,” he said, laughing. “You make the most of what you have. Some plumbing pipe and some plywood, a little bit of duct tape and maybe some bubble gum.”
Now, he added, “the bubble gum and duct tape and plywood and pipe experiments I used to do as a kid are serving me well … because I quite often have to think very much outside the box to come up with new methods to do maybe some old concepts.”
Some of those old concepts, which Harrison debuted in his first local show on Saturday, Dec. 7, include tricks with ropes, mentalism, mind-reading and even cutting his arm in half. He doesn’t use a lot of visible technology — “if you keep it as basic as possible … their minds are racing with all the different ways this could be happening, but they’re ignoring the most simple method that’s staring them in the face” — and he keeps it as intimate as possible for the small room.
“If you’re looking at today’s magicians like Chris Angel and those guys, that’s not me,” Harrison said. “Think of me as the polar opposite: a bit of a bygone era-type performance.”
With only one performance under his belt, and every Saturday evening in December booked at the hotel, it’s a bit early to tell if Harrison’s magic will be a hit for tourism. But he’s feeling optimistic.
“I know that success doesn’t come overnight,” he said. “It’ll take time to grow, and I’m okay with that. I’m not in a rush.”