New Zealand

1882 - 1890

Beginnings

The first reference to a performance by Driver appears in Wellington's Evening Post newspaper in November 1882. "T. W. Driver In his SEANCE OF MODERN ILLUSIONS" is advertised as performing the second half of a benefit for a seriously ill local resident. Although the review for the benefit was unflattering for many of the amateur singers, it said of Driver, he "...performed throughout without a hitch, the sudden disappearance of a silver birdcage, containing a canary, from his hands, while among the audience, causing great applause."

The seed had been sown for financing a tour of his act.

Introducing, Robert Kudarz

Advertising Flyer for Robert Kudarz. Permalink: http://lccn.loc.gov/2011656323  Burlingame, Hardin J. Foreign magicians, [1870-1901] Library of Congress Rare Book/Special Collections Reading Room (Jefferson LJ239) - Houdini Scrapbook 4

Advertising Flyer for Robert Kudarz.

Permalink: http://lccn.loc.gov/2011656323 

Burlingame, Hardin J.
Foreign magicians, [1870-1901]
Library of Congress Rare Book/Special Collections Reading Room (Jefferson LJ239) - Houdini Scrapbook 4

By April 1883, Thomas Driver had begun touring under his famous non-de-plume: "Mr Robert Kudarz - The most Versatile Prestidigitateur ... in his famous entertainment - 'A Night of Miracles'". Together with an offsider - 'Verno' - they toured through the Wairarapa, then further north through to Taranaki. Many of the reports would be at pains to state that the entertainment was top rate but the houses often disappointing. By June, they hit Auckland with the Auckland Star reviewer stating "...there can be but one opinion regarding the performer, and that is that he is remarkably clever."

Driver returned to Wellington and gave a scattering of performances in the region through August and September, then toured again, to the South Island, in December 1883 - May 1884 with the 'Kudarz and Globe Variety Company'. The billing variously changed and by February 1884, Kudarz and Verno were the 'royal illusionists and anti-spiritualists'."

What is clear from the reports on these early tours is that although his act was closely modelled on Harry Keller's, (1) Kudarz was highly accomplished at sleight of hand, performing many now classic card and handkerchief tricks, disappearing birdcages and reappearing money among others. Many of Kudarz' audience had already had the opportunity to see magical performers and may well have seen many of the tricks Kudarz performed before, but he was often credited as a "really clever professor of the art".

What impressed many, was that the feats were performed in front of their noses, and not high up on the stage. A reviewer for the Otago Witness wrote"...all of this is done, not on stage, but in the body of the house, where the audience ought to be able to discover the trick" a sentiment seen more than once in reports.

Advertising Flyer for Kudarz/Driver Permalink: http://lccn.loc.gov/2011656323  Burlingame, Hardin J. Foreign magicians, [1870-1901] Library of Congress Rare Book/Special Collections Reading Room (Jefferson LJ239) - Houdini Scrapbook 4

Advertising Flyer for Kudarz/Driver

Permalink: http://lccn.loc.gov/2011656323 

Burlingame, Hardin J.
Foreign magicians, [1870-1901]
Library of Congress Rare Book/Special Collections Reading Room (Jefferson LJ239) - Houdini Scrapbook 4

Robert & Haidee Kudarz

Kudarz' South Island tour had ended by June 1884. From a performance perspective it could be considered a success, but not from a financial one. For example, two Resident Magistrate's court findings went against Driver and he was fined £1 17s and £4 6s 6d respectively. In June 1884, Driver had decided to sell his act.

A year later, Thomas Driver married Ellen Lingard. Born in Napier in 1867, Ellen was known as 'Nellie' and was one of nine children born to James and Martha Lingard. On 25 May 1885, Nellie debuted as 'Miss Haidee - the mystic trance medium, clairvoyant, and psychometrast' a month before their marriage. Nellie's proficiency in the art of escape and her exposés of spiritualism were key to the success of future performances. 'Professor Robert Kudarz - the Wizard of the World' was now a quality double act. 

Robert and Thomas / Haidee and Nellie

Section coming soon...

1890 - 1899 - Australia

Section coming soon...

1899 - 1908 - Retirement

Section coming soon...

Click here to read more...

 

 

(1) "...readers will understand his programme pretty well, when they know that it is modelled on the plan of that of Harry Kellar." Leaves from Conjurers' Scrap Books, or, Modern Magicians and their Works by H. J. Burlingame. CHICAGO: Donohue, Henneberry & Co. 1891