A good magician never reveals their secrets, so Raymond Crowe counts himself lucky he was fortunate to find a number of mentors to assist him on his journey to become Australia’s only ‘Unusualist’ – a master of hand shadow puppets, ventriloquism, physical comedy and illusion.
‘As a kid, I loved magic and physical comedy.' Raymond says.
'I can remember doing a trick in Grade 3 and the teacher pulling me aside afterwards asking me to explain how I did it,’
Other primary school performances followed, including a ventriloquist routine with a ‘little ghost in the cupboard’ that led to his first tour as his impressed teacher took him from classroom to classroom to repeat his routine.
But, whilst Raymond was hooked on illusion, he struggled to find more information on his craft. Fortunately, a series of mentors came into his life, including magicians, illusionists and the great Czech dancer Madame Zora Šemberová, who had studied mime under Marcel Marceau.
‘She taught me how to move and she taught me standards — that things were never going to be good enough, but you should aim for it. She’d throw you out of the class if she thought you weren’t being sincere. “Why should I waste my time? I am an old lady. I could be doing other things”,’ Raymond laughs.
Her teachings were not wasted: Raymond was the first Australian magician to perform on Broadway and, as a member of the international magic production The Illusionists, he has toured the world. His most famous work is a heart-warming hand shadow piece, set to Louis Armstrong’s classic What a Wonderful World. Whilst his baby son’s hands were the inspiration for the most innovative part of the routine, Madame’s fingerprints are all over it.
‘She told me to be human. That you must do good work. She changed my life.’