Freshly back from two week’s working in a Mumbai call centre, former Blackpool-based magician and funnyman Paul Zenon (right) can’t wait to be back at Blackpool Grand Theatre.
“Actually it was a booking at the Comedy Store over there but as soon as you say you are working in Mumbai people just assume it’s a call centre,” said Paul, who is part of the cast of the new variety line-up The Crack at the Grand on Thursday and Friday.
“Thankfully I didn’t have to change the act,” he said. “I checked up before I went with people who had been and they told me the audience wasn’t going to be much different to over here –but the airport security is tighter.”
Nevertheless as a keen student of the history of magic he took his video camera with him.
“I wanted to learn more about their traditions – stuff like snake charming, beds of nails, acrobatics and three card tricks,” he says.
The former – if brief –member of Blackpool rock band Crackousrockanrol says he is delighted to be back in Blackpool and again taking part in Showzam!.
“I did a one-off appearance in La Clique last year but it was at The Grand where I made the first proper appearance that I can remember,” he says. “It was a Jess Conrad Sunday concert – he was in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the time – I was 12 or 14 at the time and waiting in the wings I was worried about having enough material.
“It’s a memory that has stuck with me. I’ll be doing just the same on Friday night when this show opens – and the material is probably the same as well!”
There’s talk at the moment that magic is the new rock and roll but Paul takes that news with “a pinch of salt.”
“Television audiences have very short memories so whatever happens at the moment they will have forgotten about soon enough,” he says. “Look at Paul Daniels and how big he was at one time – and what he ‘s doing now.”
So he’s not a fan of the recent BBC1 X Factor style search for magic talent.
“I’ve turned down chances to be a celebrity judge on things like that because generally the shows are judged by people who have no right to be there,” he says. “Magic is still alive and well even though there’s not much of it on television. Look at the success each year of the Blackpool Magicians’ Convention – without any advertising or ballyhoo.
“Aside from the recession the international scene has never been better. Magic travels well. I was offered work in China recently – it’s places like that where the future is.”
He’d like to see more (or some?) state funding for variety entertainment in the UK.
“Even Germany has state funded variety in every town whereas over here it’s corporate work and award ceremonies that are going,” he says. “The fun side is festivals like Showzam!
“At the moment in London and the south there’s a demand for more spoken word stuff. I can see that growing like burlesque did. It’s all such a break from television and I think that’s what people are beginning to want.”
n The Crack, Blackpool Grand Theatre, Friday and Saturday, 8pm. All seats £15 Full time students £12 all seats. Suitable for 14+ (contains strong language and nudity). Book by calling the Grand Theatre box office on (01253) 290190, online at www.blackpoolgrand.co.uk