LIFE PODCAST SERIES: MARCEL OUDEJANS, MAGICIAN

After talking about his career, experiences and accomplishments on the LIFE Series Podcast, Marcel Oudejans performed an impromptu magic show in the middle of the SPICE4LIFE offices.This wasn’t completely unexpected – Oudejans is a corporate magician and the host at the Cape Town Magic Club. But he still managed to surprise and delight a group of interns and staff, bending a (very immobile-seeming) fork with his mind and turning a R50 note into an American dollar and back again.

As a corporate magician, Oudejans performs at company events, training and conferences, catering his shows specifically to the client and what they want to achieve. Past clients have included ABSA, First National Bank, Vodacom, Madame Zingara and Parmalat.

His life’s motto is a Walt Disney quote: “Do what you do so well that the people who see you do it want to see you do it again and bring their friends so that they can see you do it too.”

It certainly seems to be working – his website and LinkedIn page are full of clients raving about his performances.

“Marcel came into our studio to present to my team on innovation and creativity and, using magic and allegory, Marcel blew us away,” wrote Fred Roed, the CEO of World Wide creative. “The team was buzzing for weeks afterwards and they still refer to the session as a highlight of 2011.With a rare ability to convey a message effectively and at the same time entertain his audience, Marcel is an inspiration. Quite simply, Marcel *is* magic.”

Others describe Oudejans as “thoroughly provoking”, “friendly, fun, and fabulously engaging” and “a true professional.”

Oudejans wasn’t always a successful magician, however ­– 13 years ago, he was working as a desktop engineer after getting a diploma in IT engineering.

He didn’t like it very much.

“It was 9 to 5, and everybody’s got a problem the whole time and you’ve got to be friendly and helpful,” he said. “[Clients are] breathing down your neck, saying, ‘I need to send this email!’ So it was stressful and I didn’t want to do that anymore.”

At that point, Oudejans was already performing at a restaurant six nights a week. Comparing the feeling he had onstage – when everyone was laughing and happy to see him – to his stressful and unrewarding career, he decided to make a change.

“It was starting to get to the point where I was getting enough inquiries to go, ‘You know what? I don’t need to rely on my day-to-day income anymore. I can kind of earn it from just doing shows,’” he said.

So, he quit his job and branded himself as a corporate magician – finally turning the hobby he’d had since childhood into a full-time job.

Now, besides being a successful corporate and keynote speaker, he’s a founding member of The Long Shots, an improvisational comedy troupe, is the youngest registered professional member of the Professional Speakers Association of Southern Africa and is one of about 30 full-time magicians on the African continent.

His latest project is the Cape Town Magic Club, which launched on 21 March and presents two shows every Monday at the Cape Town Club. The Magic Club, Africa’s first magic theatre, is a passion project for Oudejans, who either performs or hosts every week.

“Monday Night Magic is an opportunity for you to come watch some of the top magic in a beautiful little retro theatre and just be amazed,” he said. “There was never a permanent place for people to watch magic in Cape

Town, and we have some of the best magicians in the world here…because the College of Magic is here.”

The Magic Club will host shows until 6 June, when the next season will be announced. Featured magicians have included Bryan Miles, the star of SABC 3’s “One Day”, and comedic performer (and two-time shipwreck survivor) Robin Boltman.

Oudejans hopes that the theatre will become a mecca for magicians travelling to Africa and that it will help foster and give a platform to young local magicians.

“[What I love about magic] is that combination of people being amazed a captivated and laughing at the same time,” he said. “Who doesn’t like a nice surprise? And when you’re doing magic it’s like, one surprise to the next, and it’s inviting people to think about nothing else but how to enjoy themselves…it’s fun to put smiles on people’s faces like that.”

In the podcast below, Marcel Oudejans discusses magic, changing careers, improvisational theatre, the Cape Town Magic Club, the difficulties of being an entrepreneur and the business skills he’s picked up along the way.