The Expert at the Card Table

He looks like Hugh Grant except everything about the conjurer is longer; his face, his limbs, and these days, his hair.  His name is Guy and he’s a full time barrister who moonlights as a card sharp.  There’s something to say about that, but I’ll leave it to his clients. 

He walked onto the stage in white tie and tails, the Full Monty, as it were. By the way, did you know that the Full Monty is not about taking your clothes off, but putting them on?   In the early 1900’s a three-piece suit tailored by Sir Montague Burton, creator of the largest menswear manufacturing business in the world at the time, was known as the Full Monty, and customers asked for the Full Monty by name.

Guy said something about being overdressed as he removed his jacket, hung it on the old fashioned coat rack and then reached for a book that lay on a Victorian card table.  This book has been in publication since 1902 and is the grande dame of all books about card manipulation, also known as cheating.  

Guy’s slight of hand was interwoven within a narrative about a card sharp in the early 1900’s who because of his cheating ways was responsible for the death of an opponent who committed suicide when he lost the shirt off his back and everything else.  Guy isn’t an actor but I found myself more involved in the story than in the tricks, maybe due to Neil Patrick Harris’ direction.  Yes, Doogie directs, it was his first.  This directing debut took place at the Mernier Chocolate Factory in Shakespearean Southwark, our old stomping grounds.

The Chocolate Factory houses a full restaurant, a theatre and an art gallery. 

A small, but important note here about the absence of chocolate at the Chocolate Factory.  We had dinner before the show and there was not one sliver of chocolate to be found - not even on the dessert menu.  Good lord.

I admit that I’m not too impressed with card tricks, but my husband loves them.  I appreciated that a large flat screen TV, previously hidden on a black draped wall above Guy’s head, came to life.  It ruined the Victorian atmosphere, for suddenly we felt like we were the audience members of the gambling channel being treated to an intimate look at Guy’s incredibly long fingers as he did the deed.  

The narrative was compelling in that tale of trickery, deceit and death kind-of-way and he told it seamlessly while he used audience members to prove he was the real deal.  Couldn’t resist that.  Guy’s best trick was The Reformation in which a card was torn into quarters and restored in front of our very eyes.  Great, but… WHERE’S THE CHOCOLATE?



Unless you’ve been as secluded or sheltered as we perhaps mistakenly thought Susan Boyle has been, you’ve seen the clip or the show in which Ms. Boyle unexpectedly, but so beautifully knocked our socks off.  And there’s plenty to read and watch about the event, some pleasant, some condescending and one outing I mention here that disturbed me.

 Tanya Gold can be a controversial journalist.  She drove home her controversial-ness in her Guardian article about Susan Boyle.  I was truly shocked when she described the latest phenomenal singer on Britain’s Got Talent as a piece of pork on a doily.  Is this the way a woman supports and defends another when she’s been made a laughing stock?  A munter?  I had to look it up.  It’s British slang for an ugly woman.  That Gold uses this noun so freely is appalling.  I don’t think in this case Tanya Gold is being a journalist.  I know, I know, who is these days, but anyway…She didn’t say anything new about much of anything in her article.  Everything she described about the show is true, but it’s all blatant and transparent to anyone with two eyes and ears and saw the show or even the clip.

Tanya Gold continuously writes about her fight with obesity and former alcoholism.  Surely, with the help of insight, there could have been a better way to write her way though this without further demeaning Ms. Boyle and finger pointing people who had nothing to do with the evening, as she did with a list of fellows she thinks are ugly.  So what.

The thing that is different here that no one has mentioned is that in Britain, back in Vera Lynn’s days, a woman or man who wasn’t good looking could easily be recognized for their talent. 


Loads and loads of performers who looked like housewives or garage attendants sold records, took to the stage and made films. 

Miriam Margolyes

These performers were never treated with the disrespect with which Ms. Boyle was treated by the public, the judges and Tanya Gold.  I think that America for the most part was different from Britain in this way.  Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Barbra Streisand come to mind as a few exceptions, but mostly the US has always been attracted to the attractive – not so in Britain, which makes this whole thing all the more disheartening. 

It demonstrates the spiraling down of decency in the UK.  But isn’t that what the show is about anyway?  Relishing the opportunity to point out someone whom you think is in some way worse off than you; it seems to be less about talent until we are stunned by the real thing and then suddenly everyone remembers they’ve come to see some talent.

I never considered Susan Boyle ugly.  When I see a photo of a rapist on TV – he’s ugly.  When I see a child bullying another one – that’s ugly.  I think people are far too interesting to be ugly unless the ugliness is in their actions.  So for Tanya Gold to shove down our throats that she thinks Susan Boyle is ugly then she really can’t be that much different from Piers, or the crowd she writes about – can she?

 Lang may yer lum reek, Ms. Boyle. (That’s Scottish for “May you live long and stay well.”)