Caledonia-based mentalist Ryan Edwards wins national magic award

Caledonia-based mentalist Ryan Edwards wins national magic award
CALEDONIA—Caledonia-based mentalist Ryan Edwards has been named Canada’s Top Magician in the Reader’s Choice category by Canada’s Magic. —Photo courtesy of Ryan Edwards.

By Mike Renzella

The Haldimand Press

CALEDONIA—Ryan Edwards, a mentalist based out of Caledonia, has won the Reader’s Choice Award as Canada’s Top Magician from Canada’s Magic, an organization striving to raise awareness of Canadian magicians.

Edwards specializes in a type of magic known as mentalism. He explained, “Mentalism is combining all five senses to create what looks like the sixth sense, but a lot of times we’re using tools like math and science and technology, different things, to create what we’re doing.”

Interested in magic from a young age, Edwards got his first real taste of how working magicians operate while in university when he teamed up with an illusionist, working as an ‘illusion engineer’. It was around this same time that he started dabbling in mentalism.

Edwards said the illusionist gig meant transporting “23,000lbs of equipment to every show”. In comparison, “With mentalism, I can go anywhere with a backpack and do a show. I created my first theatre show about 10 years ago and my goal was to fit it in the trunk of my car but still play really big on a stage.” 

He said mentalism reminds him of how magic was performed in the distant past, “when people felt like what the magician was doing was real – like they had powers or something. I figured mentalism was the closest I could come to creating that original feeling of what magic could be.”

He continued, “With magic, you don’t watch a woman get cut in half and then call the police and go ‘I just saw a murder’. When I do mentalism and I tell someone what they’re thinking, it feels real.”

Edwards has been at it now for 20 years, starting out with a working gig at St. George Arms in Caledonia and then transitioning to the Argyle Street Grill following a successful performance at a staff Christmas party. In addition to regular corporate events, Edwards also performs regularly at Little Ding’s in Cayuga and Plank Road Taps & Grill in Hagersville.  

He said that while many of his contemporaries on the corporate scene don’t do restaurant work, he loves how it helps him to test out new material and keep his skills sharp. 

“It’s an opportunity for me to go out and try new things,” he added. “(Mentalism is) not as much a thing you can sit at home and practice…. You really need to test things out on people. Usually I do two restaurants a week to test my stuff out and keep my chops up.”

Edwards shared some memorable experiences from his career, including performing in front of Penn and Teller for a taping of their show Fool Us at the Rio in Las Vegas, which sadly didn’t make it to air due to licensing issues with a can of soda Edwards used in the trick. 

He has also worked as a consultant several times for magicians who appear on the competition show America’s Got Talent: “I get hired by the magicians on the show to come up with routines and tricks on the show. I know as a Canadian I can’t win the show…. It’s been a pretty neat experience.”

One of the more notable experiences from the show was with Rubik’s Cube magician Steve Brundage, who made it to the semifinals in season 11. Edwards said, “I created a bunch of that stuff and helped him with scripting. Steve’s first round was really the only one he didn’t need help on because he had five minutes of his really good Rubik’s Cube stuff. The week after that he called me.”

Edwards said his Reader’s Choice Award win surprised him, noting the tough competition he faced, like Shawn Farquhar, a Vancouver-based illusionist named ‘Grand Prix Champion of Magic’ by the International Brotherhood of Magicians.

Edwards believes the award mostly adds up to ‘bragging rights’, but added, “I’ve worked in mentalism and with people in the area for so long that it’s pretty cool to get an award that is seen by everyone across the country…. It makes me appreciate the fact that people see the work that I do.”

He is now in the process of working on a new show to be performed at Little Ding’s on January 22. The show, titled ‘Psychic’, sees Edwards “play around with the idea that I don’t believe in psychics even though what I’m about to show you will make you think I must be psychic.” 

He’ll return to the restaurant at the end of the month, bringing out some friends for a three-magician bill.

“70 or 80% of people have never seen magic up close,” concluded Edwards, encouraging residents to join him for an upcoming show. “To be able to see more people and have them experience magic or mentalism for the first time close up is really cool – it’s something that they’ll never forget.”