Interview: Cath Jamison
Cath Jamison is an award-winning performer with a quirky sense of humor and a talent for almost everything. Playing over 30 instruments, as well as being Australia’s only female mentalist; Cath is about to bring her solo show Conjure Woman to Melbourne’s Magic festival this July. Here she chats about her show, magic and what it means to be a performer.
How would you describe your show, Conjure Woman?
There are lot of different elements, a lot of theatre and multi-media. I brought onboard a theatre director to help me out, but really it’s about connection. I should have called the show Connection but it’s still evolving. There are a lot of different things going on, magic, mentalism, theatre and multi-media but also collective consciousness and a lot about intuition. I believe that everyone, especially women have some kind of intuition.
When did you first discover your affinity for magic and mentalism? Did you discover one and then the other or did they come hand-in hand?
I’ve been doing magic since I was five, I had a magic kit put in my hand and I’ve never looked back. I’ve always been a performer, I used to juggle chickens and won awards for busking so for me magic has always been there. As for mentalism, it’s something that I’ve been doing since around ‘92, so quite a few years now. I’ve always been an observer; I’ve always been interested in how people think. When I go to the airport I like to watch people, think about where they’re going or coming from. I don’t just go to the airport though; it’s just when I’m going somewhere or seeing someone off.
Is there a magician or mentalist that inspired you when you were just starting out?
When I was starting out, yeah there were the big American magicians. You know Lance Burton and David Copperfield type, but I’m big into learning and reading and passing on knowledge. I’ve done clowning and the theatre but I also teach children at a magic school. I think that’s important, passing on knowledge. Also I do this magic wand making with the kids, It’s about making the physical into the magical. It used to be more boys than girls, but now it’s more even. Harry Potter triggered a lot of that.
So do you think that’s the most rewarding part of doing what you do? Working with the children?
Not the most rewarding, no. It is good but I think getting people to laugh is the most rewarding thing. Being on stage and seeing people enjoying themselves, thinking about what’s happening and mostly just making them laugh. Like I always say, if I make them laugh I’m a comedian and if I don’t make them laugh, I’m a magician.
Do you ever get heckled? How do you deal with that?
I do get heckled yes, but I don’t like to put people down. It brings the room down. I give them a little one-liner sometimes, but the audience usually shuts them down for me. I don’t have to do much, the people are there having a good time so if it comes to it; I’ll bring them on stage and put them in a guillotine. Like I’ve learned though working with children, if one of them acts out it’s usually because they want attention. It’s no different with adults. It really is about reading the audience, but I don’t get people yelling really hateful, hurtful things at me so it’s okay. I’m like a big kid on stage, so we just have fun with it.
Do you think it’s harder for women to make a name for themselves in this field?
You think of a magician and you think of a man, you think tailcoats. It’s the stereotype, but I think it’s all about making your own show, your own act.
How do you feel about being known as Australia’s only female mentalist?
I’ve been doing mentalism for a few years now, and I’m the only one in Australia doing what I do. There’s no one else doing strictly mentalism, certainly in other places but not in Australia. It’s about me building a brand. This is who I am, I’m quirky, I’m sassy and I just do what I do. I’ve looked for other female Australian mentalists, but when I search for them my name pops up.
What’s your favorite trick, not necessarily from this show but your favorite that you’ve performed?
Floating a glass of vodka is a fun trick, but there’s so many. There’s a lot that I do with connection and truth, I can’t say a lot because it’ll give it away; but there’s a bit with a couple and I ask them questions and test their connection. Oh, and there’s the telephone book. I have a scroll and I have a telephone book and I ask someone for the row, someone else for the number and it’s all written on the scroll. I love it. But floating vodka is fun too.
Do you have any advice for someone who’s looking to make a career out of magic or mentalism?
Just be yourself, don’t let the magic be the act. Read, learn, constantly be looking to improve and remember to make it about yourself. Your personality. I know my shows are a lot about me. I’m not your typical, long blonde haired, leotard-wearing performer, so I make it about my personality. Just be yourself and let that shine through in your performance.
What are you plans for after the festival?
I’ve performed at the Adelaide Fringe Festival a few times so I’ll probably bring the show there. It’s all about a continuation of the same show, evolving it, thinking about where I can take it. I’m constantly working; looking at spaces where I can perform, cruise ships things like that. There’s a lot of multi-media in the show so it’s interesting thinking about how and where it can go, and what we can adapt it into and where to take it next.
Conjure Woman is at Northcote Town Hall from 7 to 9 July. For more information and to buy tickets, head to the Melbourne Magic Festival website.