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Simon Drake

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Simon Drake is the stage name of Simon Alexander; a British magician based in London. He is best known for the innovative and shocking television series Secret Cabaret made for Britain's Channel 4.[1]


Early life

Drake is the son of a GP and both sides of his family were connected to the medical profession for some generations.[2][3] In an interview included in a recent book about Arthur Brown, Drake was working as an office boy at the Gull record company (a record plugger at Decca Records in actual fact, Ms Marshall is incorrect. SD) when he met Arthur Brown:

Arthur's single 'Fire' was the first record I bought at the age of 12. As the years went on I saw Arthur at the Rainbow with Kingdom Come. I was a huge fan...I was promoted to plugger. I took Arthur round for interviews with the radio, and got to know him as a person and he mentored my crossover between the security of a day job and the craft of magic.[4]

Performing career

He first came to wider attention in Kate Bush's UK live tour in 1979 for which he co-devised visuals and played seven characters.[5] He has a wide and diverse performing history, from Terayama’s Tenjo Sajiki theatre in Japan to the Royal Variety Show at the London Palladium before Queen Elizabeth II. He advised Nicolas Roeg for the film Castaway, with the tricky task of coaching Oliver Reed in sleight of hand, and was magic advisor to Harvey Keitel on Fairy Tale, A True Story.[6] In two series of the award-nominated Secret Cabaret for Channel Four, he won an international cult following for his original and shocking presentation of illusions and manipulation routines. He worked alongside magician Pat Page[1]. He has performed and consulted with many stars including: Elton John, Phil Collins, Madness, David Gilmour, Meat Loaf, Steve Miller’s Abracadabra, Darryl Hall, Bill Wyman, George Harrison, Julian Lennon, Peter Gabriel and Pamela Stephenson. In August 1993 he was seen on American TV in the special Raising Hell, in which he co-starred with heavy metal band Iron Maiden in their final show with Bruce Dickinson on vocals in those years (the singer rejoined the band some years later).[7] The same month Drake performed with Carl Davis and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.

Drake has met David Copperfield on several occasions, with Copperfield once saying Simon is "the English version of me, but from hell!".[2]

Drake has performed twice as a guest with The Royal Ballet at The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and the London Coliseum. He has appeared at festivals and tours in Canada, New Zealand, Europe and in the UK and has had residencies at many London nightclubs as well as a month in cabaret at The Casino in Monte Carlo, Paris and Dubai. He was the magic and effects supervisor to Cameron Mackintosh for the West End production of The Witches of Eastwick and Ducktastic, directed by Kenneth Branagh.[8]

He was a consultant on the South London Theatre's Spring 2007 production of Dr Faustus. He was also a consultant on the production of episode 6 of the fourth series of the BBC television drama Hustle, broadcast in 2007, where he worked with producers and writers to resolve the problem of how to steal $5 million in cash from a glass case inside a fish tank while making it appear to be actually still be there. For the same episode, he also coached regular cast member Marc Warren in how to perform the illusion of Sawing a Woman in Half on fellow cast member Jaime Murray.[9]

In autumn 2007 Simon received a strange phone call from Terry Gilliam the film director asking about the possibilities of whether a metal tube, hidden down a person's oesophagus could prevent death whilst being hung by the neck. It turned out this was for his forthcoming movie, The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus. In a subsequent 90-min meeting, possibilities were discussed for sleight-of-hand with said tubes along with other ideas for magic effects in the movie. Simon was hired to make these strange tubes and coach the stars of the movie, particularly Christopher Plummer and Andrew Garfield. Drake is credited as 'Magic advisor' on the movie.

No one could have foreseen the tragic death of Heath Ledger in January 2008. The cast, crew and especially Gilliam were shocked and grief stricken and the whole project was put on hold. The movie went through major upheavals and sadly schedules didn't permit Simon's work with Tom Waits. Three 'A' list stars stepped in to complete the film as a testament to their friendship and admiration for Heath Ledger.[10]

House of Magic

In 1996 he opened his own venue, Simon Drake’s House of Magic, in a converted Victorian building at an unpublicised location in London.[11][12] This performing space specialises in corporate entertainment functions with twice monthly public performance nights. Shows feature Drake's trademark effects as well as light-hearted amputations and decapitations of senior executives and celebrity guests.[13] His regular warm-up act is piano-based comedian Adam Kay, aka Amateur Transplants.

In February 2009, Drake travelled across 5 American states on a quest for the strange and very peculiar. He met, interviewed and photographed jesters, jokers, crazed hoarders, automata collectors, strippers, mechanical geniuses, several stars of magic, the inventor of the first ever computer game and a private astronaut. He said, "It was supposed to be my holiday but turned into damn hard work and about the most fascinating and fun time I have had in years!" Drake’s photos and interviews appear in Dennis Publishing's Bizarre Magazine over the next 12 months as 3-5 page features.

In February 2010, Drake and the House of Magic featured in the "Gadget Magic" episode of The Gadget Show. In this episode, Drake acted as the magic mentor to regular show presenter Suzi Perry, competing against fellow show presenter Jason Bradbury and his magic mentor, Dynamo, in a challenge to create technology-based magic.

References

  1. "Secret Cabaret information". at television production company Open Media. http://www.openmedia.co.uk/secretcabaret.htm. Retrieved 2007-03-10. 
  2. Template:Citation
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  4. The God of Hellfire: The Crazy Life and Times of Arthur Brown by Polly Marshall, SAF Publishing 2005
  5. "High Band: Kate Bush Live at the Hammersmith Odeon". British Film Institute database. http://ftvdb.bfi.org.uk/sift/title/254543. Retrieved 2007-04-01. 
  6. Simon Drake at the Internet Movie Database
  7. The show was shot at Pinewood Studios, near London, and broadcast live on American TV. It was later bought by the BBC for transmission in the UK and broadcast but heavily censored. See "Raising Hell". Internet Movie Database. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0304203. Retrieved 2007-04-03. 
  8. Quinlan, "Celebrity Interview"
  9. "Hustle". Internet Movie Database. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0379632. Retrieved 2007-04-03. 
  10. "Simon Drake's House of Magic News". Simon Drake. http://www.houseofmagic.co.uk/news.html. Retrieved 2009-10-22. 
  11. Described by the Northern Echo newspaper (19 Aug 1999) as a "grey, anonymous-looking building"
  12. Template:Citation
  13. Template:Citation

Further reading

External links

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