Interview 20. – Mark Shortland


Mark is one of the top stand-up and cabaret magicians in the UK, primarily performing around the world on the top cruise lines. However, he has a secret, he doesn’t just work on the ships!! Not only does Mark perform his unique comedy magic show at private functions all around the UK, he is also one of the most entertaining and skilled close-up performers in the country today.

Twitter: @magicshortland

Describe something that has recently amazed you and how it made you feel.

I am very much into Geocaching, which for those who don’t know, is a worldwide treasure hunt similar the Pokemon Go, with actual physical items to find.

During a recent geocaching walk Rachel and I picked nearly a kilo of blackberries. After considering their use for a few minutes, a blackberry and apple crumble idea was plucked from the ether. Neither of us had any idea what went in this recipe apart from blackberries and apples, but that’s what Google is for! So, after a quick trip to the supermarket to pick up what we thought we needed, we headed home.

For anyone who has cooked, making up as you go along, you know the outcome can be very hit or miss. This crumble was a definite hit!!! I was genuinely amazed with the outcome in both aesthetics and taste. This is one of the best things we have cooked.

It’s amazing that a walk to find something completely different, mixed with a little technology and just a few ingredients could create such a work of art and culinary memory.

How did it make me feel? Very much warm and fuzzy, there’s a beauty in putting items you have found to good use. Working with Rachel to create this dish was lovely and eating it, words fail me.


How would you personally define wonder, awe and curiosity? And how do they relate to each other?

Wonder – Amazement, not being able to fathom the outcome.

Awe – It’s a fixed paddle used to propel a boat.

Curiosity – Wanting to discover more, hunting, finding, exploring previously unknown waters.

Really I would say I relate to curiosity most, I love to explore and investigate, travelling on a ship helps that with so many new places to visit. Strolling on the deck at sea and seeing a sunset, fabulous sky, far off land can fill me with awe and wonder. Such amazing sights that will never be again, they are there and then gone


What inspires you to be creative? 

I have no idea! My most creative thing recently would be painting the 53 playing cards. Coming up with 53 ideas for that was difficult; some made sense with the name of the card e.g. Ace of Clubs, I painted a night club called ACE, some were inspired by different styles of art, others by shop windows and my garden to name a few. Often, I tried one thing and it turned into something else because of a mistake I made or a wrong button pressed on the keyboard. It is those times when creativity takes a massive leap forward as I would not have originally thought of it.

People inspire me to be creative too. We have a group of magicians who meet together to help one another to grow and become better performers. This creates a forum where we can be honest and constructive about our performances and new ideas, leading to new pieces for our acts. Having a goal always helps along with passion for what you are doing.


Do you have any ‘rituals’ or an environment that aids your creativity?

No, that was easy.


What do you love about magic?

That’s a difficult question, can I answer number 4 again? I am not a magician who lives and breathes magic, it’s one of the big reasons I have not progressed further in the last few years. I enjoy watching magic if it is done well, I shudder when it is done badly. I guess my biggest love is that it has allowed me to live, travel and work over the last 17 years.


What do you think hinders an audience from experiencing wonder when watching a magician?

I would have to say their inability to commit. Working on the ships I have the privilege of performing in some amazing theatres, theatres that would easily be at home in the West End. However, the audiences I have are not paying clients, they have no financial commitment to the show, they are far more concerned with having a seat that allows them to leave the theatre quickly at the end. They will all sit at the back in eagerness to leave and go to bed. I wish they would sit at the front and create a better energy.

No one wants to be on stage with a magician, everyone is scared about being involved in the show. It’s why I have changed the start of my show now and talk about people coming on stage and helping out. I want them to understand that they are the ones that will make the show great.


Where do you think our sense of wonder comes from and what can we do to cultivate it?

Wonder comes from the smallest and the largest, it is in everything around us and everyone. We should not be able to move for wonder or look without seeing? What stops us from this. . . or ability to stop, accept and appreciate. We are all too busy doing things we feel are important, we forget to stop and take the time for what really is important. Galileo said “to see is to stop, think and wonder” He didn’t really but it sounds like something he would of said.

How do we cultivate it? I guess slow down and try to live every moment. In the film ‘About Time’ Domhnall Gleeson’s time travelling character lived everyday twice, once as it was and the second appreciating every moment. There would be worse ways to spend a life.


On stage you have quite a larger than life and chaotic personality but off stage you are very structured, neat and minimalist. How does that work out in practise? Does one side of Mark need the other? Do you find it an easy transition?

It’s definitely an easy transition between the two sides, I am a quiet person generally, but to get my other side I just need to walk out on stage or be put in front of a group of people. I find it quite easy to switch back again, although it takes a little longer to turn my stage character off.

I am very structured during my preparations in the dressing room before a show, this allows the more flamboyant character to take the lead on stage. This is one way that both sides of my personality complement one another.

As for being neat it is something I learned at college. Everything has to have its place and go back there, if it doesn’t then a mess is instantaneous and difficult to quell.


If you weren’t a magician, what would you love to be doing?

Through my life I would have had many answers to that, depending on when you had asked me, now I think I would like to be an artist. I fancy a studio and the opportunity to disappear in there to create and experiment.



Tell me more about your painting, love of films and whether this impacts your performances?

Painting is something I was never good at at school; even though I did an ‘A’ level in art and an art foundation course; I was always more interested and better at design and making things in 3D. Recently with ’53 – A Collection of Art’ I found that I could use my design skills within the paintings and produce something unique. This has developed further with ’53 Magicians – a Study in Acrylic’, simplifying the body to create my blank face people. Having this precise design style has given me a second wind with painting, I am applying it to watercolours and other mediums too. There is something neat and satisfying about clean lines and colours. Da Vinci said “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”… he did actually say that!

I have always loved films and going to the cinema, I have an annual subscription to the local cinema, so I can go as often as I like. There is something wonderful about leaving the world behind for a couple of hours and watching a great film, it’s just a shame they are not making as many good ones as they used to.

I do a couple of effects in my show that involve films, it’s something I enjoy and so it’s easy to get enthusiastic about it. I am trying at the moment to come up with a new show based on an art auction using my original paintings. I have a basic idea but it’s taking a while to get it running. Again, when you are passionate about something it makes it so much easier. That sounds like an oxymoron, but I have been so busy this year I have had very little time to think, and this is something I want to get absolutely perfect. Watch this space!!

What stood out for you? Any questions? Things you disagree with? Write a comment and join in the discussion.



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