Bill Reid doesn't like to do things by halves — unless it comes to chopping his wife in half that is — or even in thirds.
For around 35 years, Bill and Mandy Reid have been performing their magic shows locally and around the country, with Mandy being awarded New Zealand's "best magician's assistant" over three different conventions, Bill says.
"We have performed and competed in a number of New Zealand conventions and magicana days, travelled the country with a company as part of a variety show and with our son Liam who, at age 4, was the youngest performing magician in New Zealand."
Magic has been a part of Bill's life since he was 6 or 7 years old.
"My father had an interest in magic, but unfortunately due to the cost and difficulty of getting magic props and effects in from overseas, his interest didn't gain a foothold, but it had sparked an interest for me."
Although Bill watched the odd magic show on TV, he says it wasn't until he and his family were living in Gisborne that his interest was really triggered. He was performing as a dancer in the local theatre productions when a member of one of the lighting crews his father used, travelled regularly to and from the USA and would bring back magic effects for his son to learn. He also remembers performing in a production of the "Arabian Delights", in which Auckland magician Jon Zelando was performing his fire-eating and magic act.
"I got talking to Jon and he was able to give me a name of a magician in Hamilton who performed and also sold magic props and effects. Jon became a lifelong friend in magic. I wrote to the Hamilton magician, Jim Reilly, and visited him on a number of occasions to purchase magic effects and props."
Bill joined the HB Magicians Society when the couple moved to Napier, giving him access to overseas lecturers coming through the country.
"We also attended New Zealand magic conventions and the annual Magicana Day. There was no real place to go and learn; you would catch up with magicians at these events and share ideas, contacts and/or places to get catalogues from overseas magic dealers and read any magic books available in the local library."
The tools of their trade have come from a variety of places over the years, including Mandy making almost all their costumes, which Bill says are updated when they get tatty "or have shrunk too much in the wardrobe". They accessed their magic effects and props from other magicians who were selling off what they didn't want, from dealers at conventions or from the lecturers travelling through.
"We also had props made by Hamilton magician and renowned prop maker Harold Chandler and later, from dealers from overseas. At one stage we were beta testers for an illusion builder out of the USA."
Once the Reids had settled in Napier, it took about six months before they started performing shows for the general public.
"Before that we performed primarily at the magic meetings we attended."
Bill says their magic shows have never been about "tricks", but more about entertainment and using magic as the vehicle.
"It's much the same as a musician using music as their vehicle, so are the magic effects."
The shows have evolved over the years, for reasons including the availability of props and "political correctness".
"We found that some things fitted or worked better with the show."
New ideas, tricks and props mostly now come from overseas.
"The more renowned dealers are, the less likely there is to be a problem if the prop or magic effect is damaged, etc. The quality of the props have got better, and we all evolve, otherwise it becomes boring as a performer."
Their shows' format also changes, depending on a number of variables.
"In some cases, things can change during the performance. It may depend on the age group, number of attendees, size of venue, whether it's a private party or trade show, etc. We do have a base format for each type of show then add from there. In most cases we use animals in our performance."
In the early days, the pair were constantly trying different styles "to find ourselves".
"These days I still keep up with what's going on with overseas magazines as well as Facebook groups."
Bill says although they do have their favourite tricks, some effects have evolved to something more effective from when they were first released. And although they don't have any favourite audiences to perform for, some are more challenging than others, including children and drunk people.
"Children are out to catch you out if they can, which makes it more fun. But drunk audience members can pose a challenge — over the years you get to know how to deal with them. They all have their challenges and reward — variety keeps me entertained as well.
"My favourite type of show is my theatre illusion show, where I get to cut my wife in half, and thirds, as well as levitate her, disappear from one place and appear in another. Unfortunately in recent times, we have not been able to perform this type of show. Maybe it's time to look into sorting one out again."
• For more information contact Bill or Mandy on 027 4454 020.