In my posts about disliking props that don’t exist in the real world, I neglected to mention a prop I use that makes no sense but that I don’t try to justify. Such props form a category of their own and might be called magic objects.
The purse frame, invisible purse, or bagless purse has become a standard in close up magic for good reason – audiences invariably find it entertaining almost in and of itself. I really don’t know why this is so. I remember the first time I noticed this reaction. I was a teenager and had a purse frame but didn’t have any tricks to do with it. Some friends were over and we were in my room and I was showing them some of my props – in those days I had a LOT of props, which might help explain why my approach became more minimalist as time went on. I picked up the purse frame, just to move it out of the way, and they all started laughing. “What’s that?” they wanted to know. I knew from that moment that it was something special.
All these years later and the reaction is usually the same. People see a purse frame and start laughing. I guess the idea of a purse with no bag is so ridiculous that it strikes folks funny. Or it really engages their imagination and sense of fantasy. I’ve never tried to analyze it too closely, so I don’t know. I do know that if you couple the thing with some very simple magic – like pulling a silver dollar from it – it blows people away.
I’ve never tried to justify the purse frame because there’s really no justification for it. In the real world such an object would be utterly useless. As a magic object it makes a weird kind of sense. I never really say anything about it. When I use it I take it out and remove a coin or ball or whatever from it as if it’s the most natural thing in the world.
A couple of things: I’ve found it retains its appeal more if it’s used sparingly. Remove a coin or two from it, do your stuff, and put them back in, to seemingly vanish, when you’re done. In a sense it’s just a sight gag, so less is more.
If you want to see how magical it can really be, check out Shoot Ogawa’s routine which is on the Cultural Exchange DVD. It looks very nice. See you next time.