New exhibit honors
The Amazing Chang
The Amazing Chang, the magic of Whittington-Wickes, which opens at Leamington Art Gallery and Museum on October 17, tells the story of the career of the man born Samuel Whittington-Wickes in Avenue Road in 1893.
The exhibition has generated interest from illusionists and magicians worldwide, including David Copperfield.
The young Samuel ran away from home at the age of 12 to pursue a career in magic, and he returned years later a successful, wealthy illusionist, with friends around the world, including Charlie Chaplin. During his career he took a variety of stage names - Seekhett The Boy Magician, Cellsus The White Wizard, and finally in 1934, The Amazing Chang.
He was famous for his floating lady illusion, his escape from a sealed coffin, and a catching a bullet in his teeth. Chang performed from New York to Paris, and also toured the UK many times, and during the 1930s and 40s he performed for a home town audience several times, in Leamington's Jephson Gardens Pavilion, entertaining up to 15,000 people per show.
He also provided popular children’s entertainment using handmade marionettes. He retired from the stage in 1956, but remained in the town and died at his home in Radford Road in 1970.
The exhibition will feature fascinating original props used in Chang's stage shows as well as stunning backdrops and advertising material from an era when going to the theatre was a very common and popular form of entertainment. A number of the items have been lent by London magic shop, Davenports Magic, which has over the years also built up a large collection of items charting the history of magic.
Roy Davenport said: "I have always been interested in bringing historic magic to a modern public. It is a wonderful feeling to breathe life back into a magic prop that has not been performed for 70 years."
The exhibition will be opened at noon by Chang's son - Golden Globe nominated film director and screen writer David Wickes.
There will be magic by David Taylor, a member of the Magic Circle and 2009 British Isles Close Up Magician of the Year, as well as a Chinese Lion Dance. The event is free.
Sandra Evans, whose interest in Chang was sparked when she moved into his former home in Radford Road, and who has written a biography of Chang, will give a talk about his life at the Pump Rooms on Thursday October 22, starting at 6.30pm. Admission is £3 per person and places must be booked in advance, by calling 01926 742700.
Muralist Lynsey Cleaver has been working with art student Fran Booth to recreate some of the stunning stage props used by Chang.
Chang performed in New York and Paris and toured the UK with his magic acts. He was known for his 'Chinese Fantasy', based on the story of The Willow Pattern Plate, performing tricks such as producing doves from a seemingly empty chest of draws and catching a bullet with his teeth.
With support from Davenports Magic, London, the exhibition will bring together fascinating original props used in Chang's acts as well as stunning stage backdrops and advertising material that reflect an era when the variety theatre was a very common and popular form of entertainment.
Among the props that Lynsey and Fran have painstakingly recreated using an original photograph supplied by David Hibberd MIMC, archivist for the Magic Circle, are parasols featuring paintings of Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin, the world leaders who attended the Yalta peace talks in 1945, and a lobby stand, life size cut out of Chang. Chang created the parasols for use in his acts to reference major events happening at the time of each performance, or even important members of his audience. The lobby stand was taken from theatre to theatre to advertise the upcoming arrival of the great magician's performance.
For more information, visit http://leamingtonobserver.co.uk/news84524.html.