David Copperfield. David Blaine. Dynamo. Derren Brown.

Magicians used to be easy to understand.  They either walked around the streets performing freaky effects, on stage doing large-scale illusions, or messed with people’s minds. Their names also started with a ‘D’ which feels like more than a coincidence. Now that the Illusionists show has been touring the world with its large selection of unique performers there are so many more variations of magic that have now appeared.

However, fear not though as I have come to your rescue with a guide. Let’s have a look at what the only art form that creates wonder has to offer.

First, we need to understand the environments where magicians perform:

  • Close-up – This is magic performed up close in your hands or on a table. It involves only a few people and is very interactive with the audience.
  • Parlour – This is magic performed in a small venue like the Alexander Bar Theatre. A small amount of seating and performing area that allows for close-up magic to still work but with a larger amount of movement like on stage.
  • Stage – This is magic on a large scale in a big theatre such as the Montecasino or Grand West Arena. Everything is large and full of production value.

These are the different areas of magic:

(Disclaimer: The magicians mentioned below may do more than just one of the area. I have selected them as they are known for doing routines involving that area of magic)

  • Magic – These performers do a bit of everything and are generally focused on family friendly entertainment. They use many items to achieve their effects, most notably, cards and coins. Local: Mo Magic
  • Gambling demonstrations – There are a subset of magicians who specialise in card magic and then a subset of those focusing on demonstrating gambling techniques and subterfuge. Local: Stuart Lightbody
  • Street magic – Also known as busking and it is a subset of magic. This is the kind of performing which was made famous by David Blaine back in the 90s. The effects generally involve items people normally carry and are extremely visual. Local: Magic Man
  • Illusionist – This is a large stage production with contraptions which cut women in half, crush them into a small location, and make large objects appear and disappear. This kind of show is popular in Las Vegas. Local: The College of Magic’s production of Imagine
  • Manipulation – This is a form of stage magic which involves making items appear and vanish at the fingertips. It is normally a fast art form that involves bottles, cards, doves, and silks. Local: Olwethu Dyantyi
  • Mentalism – This magic style became popular in the early 2000s thanks to Derren Brown. It involves demonstrations of mind reading and predicting the future. Local: Bryan Miles
  • Paranormal/psychic – This is a subset of mentalism and involves adding a more supernatural element to the performance. These performers do effects such as bending metal, levitating objects, and tarot cards. Local: Larry Soffer
  • Escapology – Houdini performed this type of magic to large crowds. It involves the magician being chained up and placed in dangerous traps only to escape in front of your eyes. Local: Glen McMeeking
  • Pick-pocketing – This is a rarer form of magic but involves taking or removing personal items from a volunteer and making them appear in interesting places. Local: Jacques Le Sueur
  • Childrens – These are the magicians everyone knows and love who perform at birthday parties and events. They enjoy creating happiness use lots of silly props. Local: “The Dev”
  • Comedy – These are performers who believe comedy and character come first. The perform similar magic to magicians but with a comedic twist on everything. Local: Colin Underwood.


  • Cardistry – This is not magic but a subset that has grown and become an art form in its own right. It involves moving playing cards and a deck of cards in beautiful ways using dexterity and skill. Magicians tend to add a few moves in their card routines to show off.

There are plenty of other magicians who are different combinations of the above types. This is what makes magic such a beautiful art form. Its diversity and constant evolution. Hopefully, I’ve not only been able to help show you the rich variety magic has to offer but that it is also all available in South Africa.  Now go out and experience as much of it as possible!