Paul Daniels and Debbie McGee took to the stage in mid-November, a few short weeks before the news of his inoperable brain tumour brought the curtain down on a career lasting more than four decades, and delighting millions on primetime TV.
On this evening, however, they were working a smaller venue, the Evesham Arts Centre, with seating for only a few hundred. It wasn’t that they couldn’t still fill larger arenas, but because both Paul and Debbie realised that their biggest fans liked the intimacy of these events, where they could feel involved and be nearer to Paul’s sleight of hand on stage. It wasn’t scale and spectacle they were after, it was tricks.
One fan, Phil Vowels, who went to the show in Evesham, tells HuffPostUK:
“They were both extremely relaxed, but the magic was definitely still there
“The stage had a simple black backdrop, with a couple of chairs and a microphone, and when they first appeared, they sort of shrugged at the audience and said, ‘We haven’t really rehearsed, but we’d better get started.
“However, it was soon clear they knew exactly what they were doing.
“Debbie left the stage then, and Paul started by telling us, ‘I can’t go anywhere without doing this trick, it’s the one I’m always asked for’… and out came the ball and cups, and he was off.”
According to Phil, Paul Daniels’ patter was as intact as his magic, spotting people in the audience, calling them out, involving them in his show, all the tricks he’d learned in his long career that had taken him from the clubs to primetime TV, in a discipline that he’d transformed with his unique sense of entertainment.
Paul also shared anecdotes from his past, while celebrating the magicians of today.
“He said to us, ‘If you love magic, I really must emphasise that you go and watch people like Dynamo as well, these young stars are all doing great, great stuff.”
Bearing in mind this show took place as recently as November, Phil remembers that Paul showed no sign of strain or tiredness.
“He looked energetic and well. At the end of the show, he was in no rush to leave. He said, ‘I’ll see you upstairs in the lobby if anyone wants to say hello.’
“And he stayed to meet every single person who queued up, it was Debbie who kept him organised, kept the queue moving, otherwise he looked like he could have stayed there all night.”
What Phil remembers most about the evening is the ease and confidence with which Paul Daniels performed in what would prove to be one of his last ever shows.
“There was the sense that he had nothing to prove,” he remembers. “But he wasn’t resting on his laurels either. He just seemed to be enjoying himself an awful lot.
“And he told us, ‘People are constantly asking me, ‘How is the trick done?’ But to me that spoils the point of magic. It’s an illusion, it’s a piece of theatre, and I wish people could just sit back and enjoy it.”