Impressions, series 3
“Hey hey ladies and gentlemen and boys and girls, all right now—are you ready to be impressed, are you ready to be bezazzled, are you ready to see marvels of magic and feats of phantasmagoria never before seen, I said are you ready? Ladies and gentlemen it’s my pleasure to introduce to you now the only, the indomitable, the incomparable, the Great Northover!”
He sweeps the curtain aside, swirls into the shimmer of the floodlights. He is straight as a soldier, elegant as an earl, the red lining of his cloak blinding in its brightness. He stares into blank, flat emptiness of the lights, and grins.
“There he is ladies and gentlemen, ladies hold onto your seats and gents hold on to your ladies, here’s the greatest conjuror the world has ever seen, watch and be amazed folks, you’ve never seen a sight like this…”
But the Great Northover needs no barker. He astounds. He bestonishes. He scrundizzles. The crowd dances to his direction, laughs at a flick of his eyebrow. He plays their emotions, their joys, their astonishments, like a conductor playing the orchestra. He is their dream, and they are his. He grins, twirls his moustache, whips off his hat and pulls out a bouquet and a flash of fire. Without waiting for the cheers, he flings it out over the auditorium. It crackles, it sparks, is bursts and flies away with the flap of burning wings.
The Great Northover has swept off his cape, and is spinning it round the ground, faster and faster till it’s a blur. A whirlwind of fire and smoke rises from the centre, rushing and swishing, raising up and up—he flaps the cape and lets it flap gently across his arm. The smoke has become a single rose in a newspaper vase.
Deftly, long fingers fluttering, he pulls it upward, branches it apart. More roses burst from the stem, side to side, higher and higher, the flowers sparking and glowing under his caress. He sets it gently now, and anyone can see what it is—a ladder of roses, hung on nothing, going nowhere.
The Great Northover sheds his jacket and begins to climb.
Up to the dizzying top, up to dwindled nothingness among the dirty rafters of the stage. Here he balances exquisitely, one foot resting lightly on the opposite knee, draws his sword cane and blows fire from its tip. He tucks the blade under his arm like a baton, steps the ladder of roses and falls, down, down, down and down.
He lands in a flashing rainbow of lights, a rain of rose petals. And stands erect, grinning, raises his sword came and catches a single, rose in a wreath of flame. He blows it out, gently raises his hands, and lets a dove fly away in darkness. Then he sweeps on his coat, twirls his moustache, and bows, and bows again to the encore, alone under the lights in the roaring silence of the empty theatre.