Bored with CSI re-runs and looking for something a little more stimulating to fill an evening? Good news – the latest addition to Siem Reap’s eclectic expat scene is Scotsman Sean Borland, a professional magician who has big plans for the city’s entertainment.
But first things first: how does someone become a professional magician?
Unlike many magicians, Borland doesn’t credit his career to a transformative childhood experience watching a caped illusionist whip a rabbit out of a hat.
“I didn’t really start to do magic until I was at university, and it was through an interest in psychology,” he said. “I’ve always been fascinated by the way people interact, and that’s what magic is. A lot of people think you’re manipulating a pack of cards, but the skill is interacting with your audience.”
After graduating, magic quickly progressed from a hobby to a profession and Borland spent four years earning his stripes as a magician in fine dining restaurants on the Costa Del Sol. From there he spent a year in China, before moving his magical abilities to the bars and clubs of Sydney.
“From Sydney I was actually on my way back to Europe to set up an entertainment company. I flew to Bangkok, and decided to take a holiday first,” he said. “I love Siem Reap. I was here a couple of years ago so thought I’d come back and check it out.”
That last minute holiday plan turned out to be quite the life-changing decision.
“I wanted to come here to do yoga, so I went to Hariharalaya. Originally I was there as a guest, but when they found out I was a magician they asked me to do a show, and then another one, and then another one. Then they asked if I’d like to stay there and I thought ‘yeah sure, why not’.”
Borland assumed the role of resident magician at Hariharalaya, and after seeing just a few of his tricks it is not difficult to understand why they were quick to hire him. This writer is a sceptic of the most cynical variety, and was left absolutely speechless by Borland’s performance. Sub-par children’s birthday party entertainment this is not.
After his first few months working at Hariharalaya, Borland realised that Cambodia may in fact be the perfect place to establish an entertainment company.
“It’s very exciting. There are so many restaurants, bars, and hotels here, but limited entertainment options,” he said. “I’ve worked in many other cities where there are so many things happening every night, so much culture. I think Siem Reap is ready to take that next step.
“I know that if you need to book entertainment it’s much easier to work with a company that offers everything – a musician, a magician, an after dinner speaker.”
To meet this gap in the market Borland has launched Glassfrog Entertainment, which lists an ever-expanding array of entertainment options for not just businesses, but also private groups and families looking to make an occasion extra special.
Borland has also been busy combining his knowledge of magic and psychology to develop workshops aimed at enhancing communication skills.
“As a magician, you have to be very aware of your body language and non-verbal communication,” he said. “A lot of these skills can be useful in daily life – how to build rapport, how to make another person feel at ease.”
But this isn’t a workshop for those interested in card tricks.
“I might occasionally use a magic technique to demonstrate an idea, but I don’t talk much about magic and you won’t be learning tricks,” he said. “The workshop is about clear communication, and realising some of the most powerful things you can do are the most subtle.”
The workshop lasts five hours, and covers everything from handshakes and eye-contact to pointing (or why you shouldn’t,) and learning how to pace your speech. True to his word, not a single ‘umm’ passed his lips in over an hour of interviewing.
Borland performs a weekly magic show at Hariharalaya, as well as communication workshops every Friday. He is also available for one-to-one sessions and private group bookings, and can be contacted either via glassfrogentertainment.com or directly through Hariharalaya..