Arts Q&A: Magician Ian Saville on Bertolt Brecht, Robinson Crusoe and Bob Dylan

Jenny Lee puts performers and artists on the spot about what really matters to them. This week, Marxist magician and ventriloquist Ian Saville

Ian Saville will be at the Black Box tomorrow as part of Out to Lunch Festival
Ian Saville will be at the Black Box tomorrow as part of Out to Lunch Festival

1. When did you think about a career in comedy/magic/ventriloquism and what were your first steps into it?

Still trying to decide if it’s the right course for me. I’m 66. It’s a toss-up between the stage and a career as a lollipop man. On the other hand, I suppose getting to the semi-finals of the Butlin’s national talent contest in about 1968, alongside pianist Bobby Crush and comedian Mike Reid probably made me think working as a magician was a possibility. A foolish thought, in retrospect.

Then I was in a production of Brecht’s Good Person of Szechuan when I was 17, which made me think that maybe I could act. My first steps into professional performing was doing magic as part of a music hall show with theatre group Medium Fayre when I was at university in Exeter.

2. Best gigs you’ve been to?

Stephane Grapelli, in a tiny New York club in1981, Ella Fitzgerald at the Royal Festival Hall, London in 1982 and Bob Dylan, Finsbury Park, London, 2004.

3. Fantasy wedding/birthday party band?

John Hegley and the Popticians.

4. The record you’d take to a desert island?

How to get off a Desert Island by the Islanders.

5. And the book?

Robinson Crusoe, in case the record isn’t any good.

6. Top three films?

The Wizard of Oz because it reminds me of both my mum, and my son when younger. The Marat/Sade because it is a complex evocation of revolutionary anger and West Side Story as it is Shakespeare with good songs and dance.

7. Worst film you’ve seen?

Moulin Rouge, because so many people seemed to love this waste of many good talents.

8. Favourite authors?

Bertolt Brecht, Flann O’Brien and Margaret Attwood.

9. Sports you most enjoy and top team?

I cycle, but not as part of any team.

10. Ideal holiday destination?

China, somewhere. I’ve never been there.

11. Pet hate?

Computer help chat lines.

12. What’s your favourite:

Dinner? Vegan stuffed Portobello mushrooms.

Dessert? Fruit salad with vegan ice cream.

Drink? Coffee.

13. Who is your best friend and how do you know each other?

My partner, Pam Laurance. We met when I was directing her in an amateur theatre group.

14. Is there a God?

If there is, he or she is hiding.

:: Ian Saville – The Marxist Magician will be performing at Belfast's Black Box on Thursday January 9 at 12.30pm as part of Out to Lunch Festival. Tickets costs £8 including lunch. For tickets and full festival programme visit Cqaf.com