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Aug 31

David Copperfield - The Flight of Icarus Revealed

Posted by: momo

Tagged in: Tutorial , Levitation , Illusion


Oh to fly. This ambition is and will continue to be humanity's greatest quest. Siegfied and Roy have had this trick as part of their Las Vegas show-off and on -over the last couple of years.

The effect:

The lights focus on the performer, who, without any effort at all, lifts up off the stage. Back and forth, across the stage, the performer can be seen to fly. Rolling, floating, hovering above the stage. Whether the "flyer" is flying through hoops, into boxes or otherwise about the stage, it appears to be done with great ease and a great deal of magic!

The secret:

Before you run out and try to duplicate this effect, remember this: The trick is done with wires and truly needs a great showman to make the audience watch with interest. For years and years, big stage productions have had everything from furniture to people flying in them. One of the most memorable was the Peter Pan stage production. In this show, up to two dozen people are seen flying at different times.

Is this magic? No, not at all. It is merely a stage effect. The performer actually leaves the stage just before the flying is to be performed in order to have a body harness installed, and wires attached. The leaving of the stage is covered with any of the following: a screen projection depicting the history of flight, other performers taking the stage, an encore trick, etc.

In order to hide the wires, which make this trick work, you need to have a very special background. The background must either be the same colour as the wires, or have a busy pattern. Have a fan or wind machine blowing onto the background curtain, the rippling will make it more difficult to see the wires, which will be in the foreground against the moving curtain.

The wires are hooked to a series of pulleys, and the performer becomes a human marionette. The wire system usually are operated by two people, but depending on the complications of what you want out of this particular effect, they can be controlled by as many more assistants as desired. Adding flight within a glass case or box is just more of the same. The wires will travel on either side of the lid and continue to hold the performer off the floor. The flips or somersaults can continue because the wires are still connected to the performers harness.

Anyone who has seen a skilled puppeteer may have seen this same overall type of effect with the puppets. In Peter Pan, as an example, whole scenes were built around flying. The most famous, to me, is when Peter teaches the children to fly. This feat supposedly is accomplished by thinking of good thoughts. When that happens, out the window all the children and Peter Pan fly to Never Never Land.

But what really makes the flying trick a show stopper is the fact that the performer wants it to be. The performer sets a mood of make-believe in which we believe anything is possible. No, no one actually believes that they have just witnessed flight, but people do enjoy being absorbed into the world of fantasy and magic.

Unfortunately, this effect is one that can't be performed in every setting. The background must be specially set and the wires and pulley system must have the proper theatre hook-ups to make it work. Lighting, too, will play an important part in pulling off this feat.

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