KUALA LUMPUR The magician adjusts the cuffs of his dinner jacket and tweaks his black bow tie in the mirror. It’s showtime.
But there’s no buzzing audience to applaud this award-winning illusionist’s grand entrance, and nobody can wave a magic wand and open the theatres again.
Instead, he faces baskets of durians stacked outside his home in Kuala Lumpur.
Vikneswaran Allagu, stage name Vikey, in full tuxedo and waistcoat loads his bright orange pick-up and gets his daily durian show on the road.
When the Covid-19 virus first cast its spell over the nation and trapped audiences in their homes, it threw all sorts of showbiz folk out of work and onto hard times.
Vikey’s savings dwindled away on living expenses during the movement control order (MCO) period and soon he urgently needed to magic up a way to make money.
“I saw a man selling durians from his Myvi and it got me thinking,” he tells FMT. “I have a 4WD, and I thought why not give it a try?”
The 32-year-old winner of the prestigious Merlin Award – the highest international magic honour – is himself a durian lover but says he had little real knowledge about the king of fruits apart from eating them.
Luckily, he has friends who are durian wholesalers who know their way around the thorns.
“They taught me how to identify the different durians, and how to hold and cut them safely.”
Now, Vikey’s “Magic Durian” shop takes orders on his Facebook page or through his WhatsApp. He drives to his customer’s doorstep and they choose their own durians.
So far business has been good, and his sleight of hand and fancy evening wear add a touch of wizardry to each sale.
“When people see me, they ask if there is something magical about my durians. Some even request a trick.”
Being a pro, Vikey always obliges, performing card and coin tricks to his customers’ awe and delight.
Daredevil Vikey is famous for his death-defying stunts, like escaping from buried coffins, but less hazardous conjuring tricks will have to do until restrictions on gatherings for entertainment are lifted.
“It’ll take quite a long time for show business to recover. Performers like me need a crowd of at least 500 for a show. I don’t see those numbers being allowed for a while.”
Today, Vikey sells a couple of durians at his first stop in Shah Alam. A good start.
There’s still a long day stretching ahead of him as he has appointments to visit widely spread customers before picking up fresh durians, mangosteens and rambutans from Sungai Buloh.
Most days, it’s around midnight by the time he gets home to his pregnant wife and daughter.
“I have bad days sometimes. I may drive all the way to a customer’s house, and they cancel their order. But you have to stay positive and just carry on.”
When a stage magician comes to the climax of a trick, it’s traditional for him to exclaim “Abracadabra!” in order to summon the mysterious powers needed to bring the magic to a successful and dramatic culmination.
Vikey is one of many hoping that Malaysia gets its abracadabra moment before too long.
For, until the government cries “Open Sesame!” and audiences return, and the spotlight shines once more on Vikey defying death on stage, he’ll just be thrilling durian fans from the back of his bright orange pick-up.
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