Guest Post: Kesta Fleming on Stage Presence (or How NOT to Perform Magic)

Kesta Fleming recently visited KBR to share her current favourite reads, which you’ll find in her Look What I’m Reading post. This revealing article gives us better insight behind the motivation for the latest title in her spirited, Marlow Brown series. Enjoy!
The funniest ‘magic’ memory I have is of my Uncle Don demonstrating his prowess as a mind-reader at a place called Upper-Bar Farm in Scotland.

Uncle Don is funny at the best of times, but on this occasion, we were on holiday with a mixed crowd of my family and Uni friends when he announced after dinner that he could read minds. Of course, we had to see this!

Onto the coffee table in the centre of the room he placed three upside down egg cups. Next, he produced a small coin from his pocket and asked for a volunteer. My friend Claire was only too willing.

Her job? To hide the coin under one of the egg cups while Uncle Don was out the room. His job? To re-enter the room and ‘read her mind’ before lifting the correct egg cup to reveal the hidden coin. Our job? To watch and be amazed when he got it right.

Except he didn’t. Not once.

He tried magic words, weird facial expressions, head scratching … He tried reading Claire’s aura. He tried reading the minds of everyone else in the room (we’d all seen where she’d hidden it after all). He even tried having different people hide the coin — because maybe Claire had magical anti-mind-reading powers he’d not encountered before … The longer it went on, the more determined Uncle Don became, and the harder we all laughed.

It wasn’t until later, that Uncle Don told us what had happened. The trick required a stooge who knew the secret signalling system. Uncle Don was convinced my brother Mungo knew it. If he had, we’d all have been completely amazed and bamboozled by the trick. But like the rest of us, Mungo had never seen the trick before.

While Don didn’t manage to demonstrate his prowess as a mind-reader that evening, he did demonstrate something else: stage presence. Uncle Don had that in spades. In fact, that was all he needed to entertain us.

In my new book, Marlow Brown:Magician in the Making, Marlow loves magic. She also has stage presence. It’s not until the end, however, that she fully appreciates the value of this. She’s a learner magician and things go wrong—of course. They do for all learner magicians as I discovered in my research interview with two practising illusionists. I loved hearing their tales of failed magic! And I’m pretty sure they loved reminiscing. In fact, some of their stories made their way into the book.

For Marlow though, getting it right is what matters most. So, when Dad is amused by a failed card trick, her shambolic escape from a straitjacket, and the upside-down wine glass trick disaster, Marlow just wants him to stop laughing. If she’s going to become a top-class magician she needs to be taken seriously. It takes a seemingly unrecoverable hypnotism disaster at the class talent show — and the fall out of that — to finally change Marlow’s mind. Yes, skill and prowess are both important. But so too is making her audience laugh. And this she’s done, right the way through.

I hope that readers will find Marlow Brown and her escapades entertaining, but will also take from it that gritty perseverance Marlow has, in trying again and again after each failure. Because, what really matters, is not so much your success, but how much fun you and your audience are having, as you attempt to master something new.

Kesta Fleming is a children’s author and poet. Her latest book, Marlow Brown: Magician in the Making, is the second in the Marlow Brown series with illustrations by Marjory Gardner. It’s available online from the publisher, Celapene Press. For more information, contact Kesta by email

Discover more about Kesta and what her features in her ‘to read’ piles through her Look What I’m Reading post.






July 14, 2021 at 12:34AM DimbutNice