I am a Cups and Balls afficionado, and therefore a lot of ideas have accumulated over the past years. As usual: some are good, some are better, and a few are bad. Here is a selection of them. You decide what to try out or better leave. Depending on how practical you want the routine to be, there are a lot of options.
The Final Loads
A very good idea stems from Tommy Wonder. I think he mentioned it in his Books of Wonder. The idea is this: you start the routine and discover a lemon in one of the cups! Look at it, shrug your shoulders and put it into the pocket. Now go into your routine. The lemon continues to appear under a cup unexpectedly. The routine finishes with the sudden appearance of three or four lemons or other loads.
I think this is a fantastic idea. The spectators are in for the theatrical surprise. Still, the finale baffles them. The continuous appearance of the lemon is funny, surprising and provides excellent misdirection for the other loads.
I did my variation of this, using a yellow lemon net (these nets lemons are sold in). When I start my routine, the net ‘happens’ to be in one of the cups. I put it away and start the routine. The net keeps appearing a few times, and for the finale, the lemons. A logical, amusing and baffling combination.
Tommy also mentioned the technique genius Peter Kane invented. It is a devious way to do the loading sequence of the final loads. If you don’t know it, it will fool you. And even if you know it, you have to look twice, it’s so good. Check this out in Tommy’s books.
Better Loading Technique
I published my handling with the pouch load on this blog. No need to re-describe it here. Just watch the video and try to emulate it. I think in this respect, the saying “Ninety percent of everything is crap” holds true. I have seen so many bad handlings of the final loads, I can’t stand it anymore. Do yourself and your audiences the favour and work on the loading of the final loads.
Use of the Servante
The original way to perform the final loads was with a table servante. Pop Krieger was known for that. Malini and Vernon disposed of the servante and loaded the cups from the pockets.
But what, if you have a costume where there are no pockets? I, for example, perform in a traditional Kilt. There is only the Sporran (the small bag), and that is too small and uncomfortable for any load. The most I could do was to hide one lemon behind the Sporran. So I had to find two or three more loading places.
Here is what I did: on the stage, I had two chairs. On top of the chairs, I put a wooden plank. I made the Plank like an illusionist’s table base and could accommodate a final load. But it looked thin. To not overuse the table base principle, I had a silk on the plank. Behind the silk was another load, which I performed in the Larry Jennings style: using the handkerchief to clean the cup, and then doing the load on the plank as Jennings did in his Chop Cup routine.
The Crazy Load
This is a fantastic idea of Tom Stone. This works when you are standing behind a table with a long table cloth (back to middle age), so it is perfect for magic competitions. It is as crazy as he is: the loads are in a bag on the floor. Inside the loads and his shoe are magnets.
The hand holding the cup is hanging from the side. Tom then picks up the load with his shoe by coming near the bag, bending the leg up and delivering the load right into the cup! This load is like what the two Stones (Tom and David) do when producing their shoes. I don’t remember where he described this, but I am sure you will find it. The whole concept of having the loads in another, unexpected place, is a genius. Experiment with this, it is full of potential.
If you use the wand, incorporate it into the routine. I often used a small purse to store the balls. I used this in two sequences with unexpected transpositions. Use the ‘Wand From Purse’ (as performed by Cellini, Eric Evans, and others) to produce the wand.
Now make the wand ‘accidentally’ vanish during the routine and reproduce it from the purse. Produce the wand from inside one of the cups and discover the balls back in the purse. Then the purse vanishes from the table and is found underneath a cup. Inside are the three balls. Go crazy!
When doing the cups on the street, many use a folding table and a pouch. One thing to consider is the height of this table. Most of them are too narrow. The table top should be slightly over the top edge of the pouch. The ditching, retrieving and loading is much more deceptive this way, and the angles are covered perfectly. A higher table is good for your back, if you perform a lot and long time, then constant bending down will hurt.
Get a restaurant foldable tray stand with 38 inch height. I found these to work perfectly. Thirty bucks well spent into the health of your back and the deceptiveness of the loads.
Bob published his Thanks to Pepys, a complete act for pubs, etc. Wonderful routining, and finishes with his take on the cups. The difference is that Bob used three different cups for comedy effect: a glass, a paper cup and a regular cup (at least when I saw him do it, I am sure he changed it a lot). Notable the use of the wand where the ends pop off and continually appear under the cups. The wand ends could be combined with the purse.
Mental Trick with the Cups (Al Koran)
Might make an interesting interlude/beginning. The trick is described in Al Koran‘s book Professional Presentations. It is the old classic with three cups and a rolled-up bill. The performer guesses where the bill is, after the spectator has exchanged the cups. Could be done with the ball and the three cups. Never heard of anyone doing ‘metal bending’. What a surprise when a squashed cup suddenly is on the table? Psychokinetic cups crawling on the table led by a ghostly hand, and lots of other crap in this direction.
Eddie Joseph Material
Joseph published a few booklets on the Cups and Balls. He came from a different cultural background, and it influences a lot of his stuff Whilst some of his ideas are impractical, some a very good. Especially his attack on the final loads. Read these, and you will get some inspiration.
Bosco Five Cups
They say Bartolomeo Bosco did the trick using five cups. Quite a lot and complicated to follow, but not so bad if the cups appear somehow on the table. Aldo Colombini had in one of his routines a phase where a cup suddenly disappears, and Dominique Duvivier was doing a routine where a fourth cup appeared out of nothing (very good). You will feature a routine using five or even six cups. Just for fun.
The routine could end up in a production — more cups, more balls, more final loads, more wands, more … well, whatever. The whole table should be over-filled, and all started humbly with just two cups and two little balls. Go figure out methods.
Replacing the Pouch
This is something I had been toying around for years. After many years of using the pouch (and tiring of it), I changed my street magic style (see the pic of me on this blog). I wanted to go out, with a doctor’s bag and a tiny table, but not with the traditional pouch (which too many use these days). So, I didn’t change the place where the final loads came from (in front of the body in waist height), but I omitted the pouch and changed the front pockets. I had them made up in such a way that the openings were more horizontal. The pockets were also enlarged for easier access and storage of the loads.
These horizontal pocket openings can be worked like a pouch, and the spectators cannot see a difference to a regular cut trousers pocket. I made these trousers because I wanted to do my technique for the pouch load (see my handling on this on the blog) exactly the same way, but without a pouch. This system works like a dream and the loads can be done surrounded. Combine it with my technique for the Invisible Topit and you have a power loading system that defies detection.
I hop these are a few hints into a direction that breaks with the routines we see most of the times. Variety is good!