“When I tell people I chop my wife in six, I get funny looks or they say: ‘Will you chop my wife up?’ ” said Dave Jarvis.
He makes a habit of chopping up the wife he’d literally walk on broken glass to reach.
For Dave is a master of illusion, working his magic on cabinet tricks and escapology, fire-eating and stepping on smashed bottles.
He and his wife Sue, who have been performing as the illusion act Masquerade for 20 years, will be entertaining crowds at Chesterfield’s Street Entertainment Festival this week.
Dave said: “We have learned cabinet tricks from books, from meeting magicians - the act has sort of evolved.
“We have got a prop maker in Blackpool and have also rebuilt old props. The oldest prop we’ve got is a 1940s blade box for cutting up.”
Their growing collection of props is housed in an outbuilding, constructed for the purpose, on the edge of their garden at Boythorpe in Chesterfield. Their home accommodates vintage costumes, from Victorian to 1940s, which they wear to suit the period of their show.
Much of Masquerade’s recent work has come from Victorian music halls in Wales, Manchester and Newcastle. The couple also perform regularly at Crich Tramway Museum, where they will be entertaining this Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday.
Dave said: “We get a buzz from performing for people…it is fun to see their jaws drop. They only see big cabinet shows on television and we do it in the street, right in front of them.”
However he is under is no illusion that cabinet magic is as popular these days as it was in its heyday 200 years ago. Dave said: “It’s not trendy any more. People want close-up stuff like card tricks. We go to magic conventions and find a lot of people are doing it for themselves, not for an audience.”
Dave has been in the business for 30 years, starting out as one half of the successful act Spire and Steel.
“I started as a busker when I was 18 trying to earn a few bob by fire-eating,” he said. “When I was busking in Chesterfield I met a magician called Chris Beel who came from Sheffield. We started Spire and Steel and throughout the 80s we were the best thing in street theatre in the country.
“We had an agent in Kent and used to travel anywhere and everywhere - we even did France. We performed at big events like folk festivals in Sidmouth and Broadstairs.
“We did escapology, fire-eating, walking on glass, bits and pieces of magic. We had ten years together then Chris decided to go off and get a proper job working for BT in Newcastle.
“It was the right time for us to part as we’d taken it as far as we could. It was time for me to find something else and I tried to get someone else in. I got a girl to help me out but the day before we had a big booking at a Victorian festival in Glossop, she told me she wasn’t going to do it.”
That’s when Sue stepped in as his assistant. She said: “It was a baptism of fire but an experience I enjoyed.”
The couple are looking forward to performing in their home town for the first time in ten years, at the street entertainment festival on Friday and Saturday, August 23 and 24.
“It’s a buskers festival so I hope we have got some generous people in Chesterfield,” said Dave.