Updated: Jul 16
The Small Space is a popular mini theatre based in Barry, Wales which has achieved 5 star reviews on TripAdvisor. It specialises in the performance of magic and is owned by magician Jasper Blakeley.
It is the smallest theatre and cinema in the UK and also has a magic school. Also famed for its guest magicians and comedians who frequent the venue. Just one of a small handful of magic bars in the UK.
Jasper Blakeley is an established performer who is not only a member of The Magic Circle, he has performed in Las Vegas and is the only performer to be licensed to perform real live four gun revolver Russian Roulette.
Prior to establishing The Small Space in 2018, Jasper worked in television, and is also known for his comedy acts that includes his alter ego magician "Kockof".
Thanks to Jasper for taking the time to talk to us today about his career and The Small Space.
Social and website links for Jasper and The Small Space at the bottom of this post.
Magic Seats - Thanks for your time today Jasper.
With only a small number of specialised magic bars/theatres in the UK, what is the story behind setting up “The Small Space”?
Jasper - The Small Space was originally my wife’s shop but she decided to move around the corner onto the High Street, but the building was unique in so many ways that it was important to us to keep it as something. A friend of mine suggested we could have it as a venue, then another fellow magician friend of mine also came on board. The three of us had ideas but ultimately it just became two of us and it kind of evolved into what it became.
I was the one who was adamant it should get planning for change of use from a shop into a commercial theatre, that part was hugely important to us and after a lengthy battle and overturning a local planning decision, we officially became the UK’s smallest theatre and cinema and the world’s smallest magic theatre.
It’s also (as far as we believe) the first time a shop has been turned into a D2 commercial theatre, and that’s the important part to me, the classification as a commercial theatre means we can do anything we want on the premises except sporting events and ‘adult entertainment’.
Magic Seats - That's good that the venue has flexibility for a variety of uses beyond magic.
And how did you get into magic and performing in the first place - what was it about magic that grabbed your interest?
Jasper - I got into magic as an eight year old child, the usual children’s magic books – the Ladybird book of Magic was the catalyst I think, but I stopped magic in my early teens only to return in my early twenties.
I did a 12 week course in magic at The City Literary College in London, I was taught by Michael Dow – the creator of Men With Coats and it was here that I learned about sleights etc, but then I stopped again and didn’t return to magic until I needed a job to make money when I was thirty two years old.
I was made redundant as an on-air presenter at a regional radio station in south Wales and I decided that I needed something to make good money in only a few hours of my time – I remembered my interest in magic.
Magic Seats - You have of course been very successful in the field of magic.
What is unique about The Small Place that differentiates you from the competition?
Jasper - The difference with The Small Space is that we’re a ticket only venue, there are no walk-ups. This means people have made a considered decision and in the main have booked well in advance and are usually celebrating something and come with friends.
The USP is that we are so small, just 20 or 25 people and you’re inside this venue for the whole evening and you end up talking to your fellow guests because we create a house party atmosphere. It’s very difficult to describe what it’s like, you simply have to come. It shouldn’t work for so many reasons and the fact that it works so well in so many ways is part of the enigma.
Magic Seats - And will you still be offering cinema nights and even magic workshops/lessons when you reopen?
Jasper - It will be a while until we offer cinema and magic workshops again, but I’m hoping early next year things will start up again.
Magic Seats - That sounds good about the magic workshops possibly next year.
During lock down, The Small Space offered Zoom party shows. Do you have any plans to perhaps stream any of your future magic as house magician or even the guest performances?
Jasper - It’s certainly possible that we’ll simulcast live events in the future, but for the moment I’m keen to just get live shows going and building up the business again.
Magic Seats - As the house magician, what can you tell us about your show? (Kockov or other guests?)
Jasper - I’ve dropped the ‘House Magician’ moniker now as there’s only me and it’s mostly me performing, so instead I’ve opted to give a name to every show, in that way people can know at a glance if they’ve seen this particular show before. In the past we just announced ‘new show’ but then with so many repeat customers you’d have to ask what month they saw the last show and try and work out if the current show is different.
Kockov is my Russian-esque alter ego and has worked well for almost two decades, he’s the character I’ve worked as a UK headline comic in clubs and festivals throughout the UK and he seems to have a bit of a following – I always sell out my Kockov shows. He won’t be appearing until 2022 now but when he does it’ll be another new 90 minute show.
Magic Seats - That makes sense about dropping the "House Magician" moniker.
And what about your future, do you have anything that you wish to achieve personally, you have of course already achieved so much (Magic Circle, actor, magic creator and Las Vegas performer etc), what is next?
Jasper - It’s interesting when I look at what I have already achieved, however having turned fifty this year I honestly haven’t decided what I really want to do with my life – that may sound silly, but I have so much I want to achieve, it’s great to look back, but I know I haven’t truly found that one thing I was born to achieve.
It’s possible that I’ll never be truly satisfied, I’m never entirely happy with what I do, there’s always so much room for improvement, it’s that search for perfection. Having had almost a year and a half off I was able to totally disconnect from magic and that was great, I didn’t even pick up a pack of cards for months. I did do some Zoom stuff and some online lecturing, but my passion had temporarily gone. But now that the theatre is reopening and I’ve made so many changes to the venue and the way things work, plus it’s the chance to rebuild something ( I bought my business partner out of the business at the end of January 2020 just before Covid and the Limited Company became Sole Trader) so I’m keen to know how audiences feel post Covid about being in a small space and how the ‘live’ aspect feels having spent so much time with online content. Things have changed with Covid, but one thing’s for sure, we really need to get out and enjoy ourselves again.
Magic Seats - Thanks again for your time Jasper. It has been great chatting with you and learning about The Small Space. I hope to visit The Small Space and book to s in the not too distant future.