Secret Cabaret was a magic-based television programme that ran for two series, of six episodes each, on Channel 4 in the UK during the early 1990s. It was conceived and fronted by British magician Simon Drake and was praised for giving a new and shocking twist to the presentation of illusions. In addition to various magicians the show featured sideshow acts and presentations by experts on fraud and confidence tricks, all interspersed with vintage archive footage of freak shows and daredevil stunts. It was nominated for a Royal Television Society Award.
Each programme revolved around a theatre-based show presented by Simon Drake and featuring illusions performed by him in various guises. The styling of the show was dark and mysterious with some elements that reflected goth subculture. One of the features that gained it attention were illusion segments performed by Drake in a guise that owed much to punk and heavy metal. These sections were often embellished with realistic looking blood and gore reminiscent of the infamous performances of Peruvian magician Richiardi Jr. A substantial part of the running time of the show was given over to guest performers and various filmed items, ranging from archive footage to close-up presentations or exposures of scams and swindles.
Simon Drake devised the series, saying: "On television in the UK then, were Wayne Dobson and Paul Daniels, but they didn’t appeal to me. I wanted to see something darker, more fast-paced and rock-and-roll, more sexy, more weird.”
The series was conceived by Drake and produced by the company Open Media. It had strong input from sleight-of-hand magician Ricky Jay, who made special appearances in each show and was credited as a writer. Also credited as a writer was poet and playwright Heathcote Williams. Noted illusion designer Jim Steinmeyer was credited as one of the producers.
Regular guests included magicians James Randi, Geno Munari, Max Maven and David Berglas and reformed fraudster turned security expert Frank Abagnale. This was a decade before Abagnale became world famous through the 2002 bio-pic Catch Me If You Can produced by Steven Spielberg.
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