Karl Berseus, better known by his pseudonym Charlie Caper, is a renowned Swedish magician who travels around the world performing for audiences. Dawn sat down with him in Islamabad to discuss his career.
Q: What is the difference between a magician and an illusionist?
A: I think it’s just a word difference in different countries. Both are trick masters and both find ways to trick the minds of their audience to make it look as if something is happening when in actuality it is not. So to me all magic-related words mean the same [things] but in different languages maybe the terms change.
Q: Is magic self-taught or are there any institutions where you can formally learn magic?
A: Magic is mainly self-taught but there is one school in South Korea that teaches at a university level now. Having said that, there is a potential for the growth of circus academies around the world which can be related to magic and it teaches circus skills at a university level. If Sweden plans something similar for teaching magic skills, I am very sure there will be hundreds of applicants to register.
I was lucky enough that I had a couple of masters that I got a chance to work with. There was a brilliant street artist called Jim Chilani from Boston, United States, but he lived in Switzerland. In my career, possibly the greatest street illusionist that ever lived. I got to know him 15 years ago and spent a lot of time with him until he passed away.
Magic as a profession is difficult to learn and it takes a lot of efforts to become a well-known established magician but at the same time it is a fun challenge.
Q: How do you create tricks?
A: When I invent new tricks, I often start with the idea of what I want as an end result from the trick and then I come up with a way to make it happen. For me practicing new tricks is not time consuming but developing them is, sometimes it takes years to come up with a new magic trick, entirely depending on what I am inventing.
It takes a lot of time and thinking to coming up with the solution to the problems plus building props, which I build myself.
Q: How do you keep yourself up to date if it takes so many years to make tricks? Do audiences want to watch the same tricks again and again?
A: On average, out of 12 months in a year, for 9 months I am performing outside Sweden and my audience changes because I move around the world. I just did 85 shows in Australia in a two-month period.
Also this year I have come up with new shows, magic through robots which I have built and invented myself. 2019 will be lot of robotic magic which is not only very different but difficult to perform as well. Infusing robots with magic is a very interesting and innovative idea. I am famous for doing things out of the box, things which are impractical for a magician and also require a lot of work. For example, the show I will be doing with robots is going to be an hour or less, but my setup time is at minimum four hours for that one hour show.
Q: Magic shows are usually associated with children? Is that the same in your case?
A: On the contrary, my shows are mainly made for adult audiences. Around 85 to 90pc of my clients are adults; yes, children can accompany them, but the shows are not children-based.
Doing a show just for children is very difficult for me. It’s a completely different thing as children demand a lot of interaction, especially if not accompanied by parents.
Q: Are your shows based on public demand or your own personal decisions?
A: To be honest, I do a few shows in a year for big corporate clients as per their requests to earn some good money but rest of my shows are my creations, things which make me feel good or make me a better artist.
I have been creating illusions since I was eight years old, but I was never a good performer on stage. At the age of 21, I formally started performing magic after quitting my job in London as a web designer.
Although I have no formal college degree in hand, I did study subjects like psychology, mathematics, computer science, economic folkloristic, history etc because education is free in Sweden. I am completely driven by what I find interesting. I do not do things that I don’t feel good about or that don’t interest me.
Published in Dawn, May 9th, 2019