Once the gasps subside, "How does he do that?" is what's whispered among the shaking heads at a close-up magic show, as cards appear and disappear, float in mid-air and coins materialise in the most unlikely places. To reveal the er... magic behind the magic would spoil the fun of course, but Simon Evans (at The Print Room until Friday 5 October) has borrowed from so conventional a form as the lecture to put together a show that lies somewhere between The Masked Magician's "show and tells" and an introduction to the philosophy of magic.
If that sounds like hard work, it isn't. Evans is an engaging character, with plenty of patter to go with the technical skills of sleight of hand and, like all magicians it seems, a reverence for the history of the art. After an introduction that brings everyone in the room up to speed, Evans introduces his distinction between tricks and magic: the former characterised as the execution of technique in somewhat artificial circumstances; the latter an event that arises naturally, but induces wonder - the magician as "an actor playing the part of a wizard".
Over the hour, we see plenty of tricks and, where powerpoint slides would dull our senses in an ordinary lecture, a few moments of genuine magic - and, sure enough, they induce the sharp intakes of breath and WTFing that is close-up magic's stock-in-trade. Along the way, key aspects of misdirection are explained - demonstrations of where the eye travels during a trick, the shielding power of a laugh, the willingness of the mind to cling on to logical explanations. As is the case with David Blaine's remarkably intelligent book "Mysterious Stranger" and Pete Firman and Alastair Cook's TV series on magic around the world, Evans' explanations outine the deep roots of the art, underpinning magic's often underestimated role in human history.
A Lecture On Misdirection walks the tightrope between revealing too much - even the most awe-inspiring magic can sometimes be the product of the mundane - and failing in its mission to educate its audience about the difference between tricks and magic. But the show stays upright throughout, delivering on its promise to amuse and amaze as well as educate. It's different and clever and left me eager to sign up for a semester of seminars (though I'm sure I'd fail the practical exam).