Samui Wining & Dining
Just The Trick
Khun Nris conjures up lots of fun and amazing illusions
at his action-packed Samui Magic Fantasea Show.


Just The TrickSun, sand and surf. And a good book to complete the escapism fantasy. That’s what most days on Samui entail for the majority of visitors. And that works very well for a while. But once your mind and body have adjusted to the fact that you don’t have to go to work the following day, thoughts do turn to other ways to have fun.


You’ll probably spend a day touring the island or taking a boat trip around the Angthong National Marine Park. And then what? It’s a question that the magician and illusionist, Khun Nris (pronounced Nerris), asked himself on one of his visits here. And his solution was to bring his Samui Magic Fantasea Show to the island.


Originally from Surat Thani Province, of which Samui is a part, he’s recently returned home after many years abroad. His careers, first as a tour guide and then later as a performance artiste, have taken him to China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore and India. And he noticed one thing in particular wherever he went early on in his life – everyone loves magic. “Every culture has elements of the supernatural and magic in its history. And from the youngest child to the oldest grandparent, it seemed to me that everyone was spellbound by illusionists. And the more I watched and discovered, the greater my interest in magic became.”


He spent years practising and researching and was heavily influenced by the modern day great illusionists so familiar to Western audiences. “Thailand doesn’t have a history of grand illusions; it’s always been more about close-up magic and card tricks. But when I saw the incredible skills of performers like David Copperfield, Siegfried & Roy, James Randi, Penn & Teller, Criss Angel and David Blaine I was hooked. This was something I wanted to bring back to Thailand and share. And I also worked on introducing cultural elements from my home country into my show for visitors.”


From the mid 1990s he spent much of his time abroad developing his shows and in 2000 was named ‘Best Entertainer in Indonesia’. And after 12 years on the road he finally brought his Magic Fantasea Show to Thailand. For three years he was based in Hua Hin and has made countless television appearances in the last few years on Thai TV. “At first the concept of big illusions was strange for Thai people to grasp and, to be honest, no-one here had heard of me. But Hua Hin is a popular place for foreign tourists and for Bangkok folks at the weekends and coupled with my television appearances the word soon got out.”


Last year, he finally decided to bring his show and his team to Samui. “In part, I wanted to be closer geographically to my parents. They’re getting on a bit now and they live near the ferry terminal on the mainland that services Samui. And as one of Thailand’s major tourist centres it also made good business sense to come here. My team has been with me for the last three years or so and are essential to my act and were also keen to come to Samui. Several of them appear on stage with me and we also make all of our own props. They love magic as much as I do and it’s very much a collective effort. We devise new illusions together and they remind me that our show is all about fun and family.”


The theatre is next to the Chaweng Tesco Lotus, on the right-hand side as you’re looking at the supermarket from the ring-road, and there’re four performances every day (except Mondays). Each show lasts for an hour and they begin at 1:00 pm, 3:00 pm, 5:00pm and 7:00 pm and cost 800 baht per adult and 400 baht for children. And the air-conditioned hall holds just 60 people at a time so everyone is close to the stage. It’s advisable to book in advance and you can either pop in, the theatre opens at 10:00 am for bookings, or give them a call on 0 835 030 999.


As everyone gets seated they show excerpts from some of his television appearances on a big screen just to give a flavour of what’s to come. And the screen is also used for the close-up or table magic tricks that he performs during the show. Pay attention as he has incredibly quick hands and he even rolls up his sleeves so how he does his card tricks is a bit of a mystery, as it should be. He packs in a whole array of techniques into the show. His assistants change into a succession of costumes in seconds on stage before he appears and begins throwing money into the audience. And he speaks both in Thai and English throughout the show. Plus there’s plenty of audience participation. He even does one trick with some children and lets the audience see how he does it.


Without giving anything away, you’ll see levitation, swords driven into a box containing one of his assistants, escapology, a hand shadow show, a disappearing act, a young lady losing her head and references to cultural aspects of Thailand. And whilst you might be seated next to people from several different countries who don’t speak Thai or English there’s one thing you will have in common with them – laughter. Having fun and being amazed transcend language barriers.


Many of the principles of stage magic are decades and even centuries old. But Khun Nris puts his own twist on the illusions. There’s an expression, ‘it’s all done with smoke and mirrors’, used to explain something baffling, but effects seldom use mirrors today, due to the amount of installation work and transport difficulties. If you can spot mirrors in the illusions performed here then you have a keener eye than the audiences who regularly watch him, none of whom can fully explain any of his tricks. Modern performers have vanished objects as large as the Taj Mahal, the Statue of Liberty and a space shuttle, using other kinds of optical deceptions. And on a recent television appearance, Khun Nris made a fire engine disappear in just a few minutes. His theatre isn’t big enough for that but it’s clear he has the ability to make it happen and you may see it on the big screen if you’re seated five minutes before the show begins.


When you’re finished lazing by the pool, get out and have some fun at Samui Magic Fantasea. There’s just something about magic and illusions that tickles the inner child in all of us and let’s hope that feeling never goes away.


Johnny Paterson


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