WHETHER you believe in magic or not, there is no doubting the entertainment value of its trickery.Placing someone in a wooden box and sawing them in half with a giant blade only to see them emerge moments later, unscathed and in one piece, may seem implausible, yet it’s still compelling to watch.

The same is true for the opposite, and ultimately less risky, end of the magical spectrum – pulling a rabbit out of a hat right before your eyes.

“The only way to believe it, is to come and see it,” says Dean Cadywould, a magician from the Southend Sorcerers Society. “Even then, you can’t fully understand it.

“The appeal of performing magic is seeing people’s reactions, and with those who seem to be non-believers, nine times out of ten you will win them over.”

The society’s 38 magicians, who exchange tips and tricks once a month at the Bell pub, in Prince Avenue, Southend, aim to do just this when they show off their illusions at various functions across south Essex.

“Performing is really important as it’s a way of bringing magic to new people, and it is also how you gain experience,” says the 40-year-old, of Broadclyst Avenue, Leigh.

“Some people say all the tricks are the same and that’s when you know you’ve really got them. You bring a totally different trick out of the bag and completely shock them.”

Dean, who goes by the professional name of Robert Dean, clearly relishes the chance to take to the stage and dazzle audiences.

“It’s like a switch clicks, and then you turn into a performer,” he says with a fire in his eyes.

“I would be a liar if I said I don’t like being the centre of attention in certain situations. I’ll admit I’ve just bought a number plate with magic on it.”

Earlier this month Dean was crowned stage champion of the Southend Sorcerers, dethroning Richard Graham who had held the title for five years.

He had to perform for a nerve-wracking ten minutes in front of other magicians in the group, and managed to wow them by reading the minds of six people who had selected a random number by shaking dice into a cup.

Dean doesn’t quite fit the bill of the stereotypical magician.

“I have always liked magic, but bizarrely I don’t like to know how it’s done,” he claims. “I was never a fan of programmes where they revealed the tricks, but now I have to know.”

The magician, who is also a member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians, the largest magic fraternity in the world, began learning tricks only nine years ago.

“My wife bought me a Marvin’s magic set for Christmas, a basic magic set which was absolutely brilliant,” recalls Dean, who by day works in data destruction.

“I was literally like a kid at Christmas when I got that, and my wife would probably say I have been since.”

His love of trickery grew from there and he developed a passion for close up magic or table magic, perfecting stunts such as pulling a signed playing card from his wallet, or removing a signed £10 note from a kiwi fruit.

“Close up magic is my favourite,” he admits. “You can find props in the most unusual of things, like the Yellow Pages. I could probably perform with a deck of cards for up to an hour. But the natural progression is to get into stage magic.”

Dean now performs a style of magic known as mentalism, which involves reading people’s thoughts and taking them on imaginary journeys.

“Stage magic is much bigger and more grand in scale and there is more audience participation,” he says.

“If I’m performing magic it has to be commercial and appeal to a wide audience. There really needs to be that wow factor!”

But the new stage champion also highlights the potential pitfalls of performing.

“My first ever trick on stage went wrong and I shied away from stage magic for about a year,” reveals Dean.

“As a magician it’s all about practise and you have to perform with confidence. I practised one trick for seven weeks, but that wasn’t enough for me to feel happy about performing it. If you don’t get a good reaction from the crowd then it can be a long night.”

Dean will be hoping to impress the audience at the group’s forthcoming charity show, at St Aidan’s Church, in Fairway, Leigh, on April 18.

The Southend Sorcerers and Havens Hospices Benefit Show will see at least eight close-up magicians perform at tables and five sorcerers take to the stage, as well as live music. “This is the first time we have decided to do a show for charity,” says Adrian Fox, president of the Southend Sorcerers.

“Fifty per cent of the proceeds will go to Havens Hospice. People will have a great time, there’s no doubt about it.

“At £5 for adults and £3 for under-12s it’s an absolute bargain. Last year the biggest complaint was that the tickets were too cheap!”

In the meantime the group, which was founded in 1971 and whose members range in age from teens to pensioners, is looking to recruit new magicians.

“Everyone has an uncle who does magic tricks,” says Adrian. “But some people want to take it a bit further and that’s where the Southend Sorcerers come in.

“We see ourselves as a base for both amateur and professional magicians. Anybody interested in joining should get in touch.”

And if you find you are more sceptical when it comes to the magical, Dean has a message for you.

“Forget what you have seen on the TV and approach it with an open mind,” he says. “Magic can cater for anyone.”

l More information about Havens Hospices Benefit Show can be found at www.southendsorcerers.co.uk