The Illusionist

The theatre’s gilded like a magic box.
The lights go dim and someone takes the stage.
‘Good evening everyone, I’m Darren Fox.’
We know he’s not. The real one’s still backstage.

The lights go dim and someone takes the stage.
He looks the part. We gingerly applaud.
We know he’s not. The real one’s still backstage.
‘And here’s the man you’ve all been waiting for!’

He looks the part. We gingerly applaud.
The curtains part. The curtains close again.
‘And here’s the man you’ve all been waiting for!’
‘Thank you all for waiting in the rain.’

The curtains part. The curtains close again.
We troop back slowly to our starting spots.
‘Thank you all for waiting in the rain –’
‘Sorry Darren – pillar blocked the shot.’

We troop back slowly to our starting spots.
The cameraman walks sideways through the crowd.
‘Sorry Darren – pillar blocked the shot.’
‘I know. It feels a bit disjointed now.’

The cameraman walks sideways through the crowd;
we part and close behind him like the sea.
‘I know it feels a bit disjointed now.
The whole thing will look seamless on TV.’

We part and close behind him like the sea.
He reappears through the left-hand door.
‘The whole thing will look seamless on TV.
I know the repetition’s such a bore.’

He reappears through the left-hand door.
His eyes are covered; both hands firmly tied.
‘I know the repetition’s such a bore.
Please take your time, examine every side.’

His eyes are covered; both hands firmly tied.
The dazzling spotlights keep us in the dark.
‘Please take your time, examine every side
and let the camera see it, clearly marked.’

The dazzling spotlights keep us in the dark.
The volunteer does everything he’s told.
‘And let the camera see it, clearly marked.
That’s right, just there. Now cut along the fold.’

The volunteer does everything he’s told.
We half expect to see him levitate.
‘That’s right, just there. Now cut along the fold.
The time has come. Let’s hope it’s worth the wait…’

We half expect to see him levitate.
A moment’s pause that seems to take an age.
‘The time has come. Let’s hope it’s worth the wait…
And look whose name is written on that page!’

A moment’s pause that seems to take an age.
He takes the sheet and holds it up as proof.
‘And look whose name is written on that page!
I’d like to ask you all to raise the roof!’

He takes the sheet and holds it up as proof,
although the mechanism isn’t clear.
‘I’d like to ask you all to raise the roof:
Please give a big hand to our volunteer!’

Although the mechanism isn’t clear,
we’re still transfixed by what we’ve all just seen.
‘Please give a big hand to our volunteer!
Just wait until you see yourself on screen!’

We’re still transfixed by what we’ve all just seen:
a show that never actually took place.
‘Just wait until you see yourself on screen.
The stops and starts will vanish without trace.’

A show that never actually took place
will be assembled in the cutting room.
‘The stops and starts will vanish without trace.
When Sibyl gives the signal we’ll resume.’

We’ll be assembled in the cutting room.
‘Good evening everyone, I’m Darren Fox.
When Sibyl gives the signal we’ll resume.’
The theatre’s gilded like a magic box.


© Mark McGuinness, first published in The Rialto 80

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