People

Working his magic on children People

Mr Wee Kien Meng usually performs at children's parties and holds science and craft workshops.
Mr Wee Kien Meng usually performs at children's parties and holds science and craft workshops.ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN

Father of two is first kids' magician in Asia to be featured on cover of trade magazine

Mr Wee Kien Meng, a father of two, has more than a few tricks up his sleeve when it comes to keeping children entertained.

He dances with floating tables, conjures up bowling balls or pulls out vegetables from empty pouches. Give him a black cape, hat and wand - and he is transformed into a magician known as Mr Bottle.

Last month, the 37-year-old became the first children's magician in Asia to be featured on the cover of The Linking Ring, a prestigious international trade magazine.

"Kids are not an easy audience," said Mr Wee, as they are likelier to point out a magician's flaws or complain if they are getting bored.

But Mr Wee has kept them happy as a full-time performer for 13 years at his company, Mr Bottle's Kids Party. It has since expanded to Taiwan, and there are plans to venture into China.

FULFILLING

I feel happiest when (children) see me as a role model. There is something about a child's innocence that's very sincere and moving.

MR WEE KIEN MENG, who is known as Mr Bottle on stage

Mr Wee, who has performed in the United States, South Korea and China, was the only magician from South-east Asia chosen to be a judge at a global close-up magic competition in the US state of Kentucky in 2006.

"Mr Wee has contributed significantly to the art of magic internationally," said Mr John Teo, president of the local chapter of the International Brotherhood of Magicians (IBM). "By landing the cover (of The Linking Ring), he is recognised for his creation of tricks and applications of popular magic principles."

Mr Teo believes that Mr Wee is only the third magician from Singapore, after pioneers Tan Choon Tee and Ng Bo Oen, also known as The Great Wong, to be on the magazine's cover.

Mr Wee fell in love with magic when he was a boy, after his father made an egg disappear under a handkerchief.

"I was amazed. I wanted to find out how he did it," he recalled.

Growing up, he would make weekly trips to the library in Bukit Merah to borrow books on magic tricks.

When he was six, he asked his mother to translate a Chinese book on magic tricks into English.

He copied the tricks he wanted to learn into a book, practising whenever he could - in school, at home or with friends.

When he was a student at Anglo-Chinese Junior College, he chanced upon the local chapter of IBM at a toy store in Bugis.

The group now has about 90 members, most of them part-time magicians. They would perform tricks at monthly meetings, which Mr Wee never failed to attend.

While studying at the National University of Singapore, the psychology major started performing for a fee.

To his parents' dismay, he decided upon graduation to be a full-time magician. "I was stubborn. Being a full-time magician was my childhood ambition," he said.

Mr Wee is thankful he stuck to his dream. He met his wife May Lau, who runs a cleaning company now, at one of his shows in 2009. "I proposed a year later, by sealing the ring in a bag of snacks," he said.

Mr Wee, who usually performs at children's parties and holds science and craft workshops, is happy to entertain children.

He said: "I feel happiest when (children) see me as a role model. There is something about a child's innocence that's very sincere and moving."

He recalled how a young woman had approached him two years ago after a performance to ask him if he could remember her from 13 years ago.

"I was performing on a cruise ship and had given a star-shaped rubber band to her after my performance," he said. "I still have the handwritten letter she gave me as a thank-you (note)."

Mr Wee wants to teach his children, four-year-old Renee and two-year-old Asher, that magic tricks show "anything is possible in the world".

It is also what he wants to impress upon his audience.

He said: "I want them to believe in themselves. I believed in magic, and I fulfilled my dreams."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 26, 2015, with the headline 'Working his magic on children People'. Print Edition | Subscribe