SLIGHT OF HAND
When ill health left him unable to shuffle a pack of cards, Dynamo faced an uncertain future. However, now he’s back on stage with a very different kind of magic show.
Dynamo has had a lot of time to think over the last 12 months.
For the previous decade the magician, who grew up on a Bradford council estate, had earned a reputation for doing ever more outlandish tricks. He had walked on water across the River Thames, levitated above The Shard, casually strolled down the side of the 20-storey LA Times building and somehow managed to make everyone’s phones ring simultaneously in Times Square.
With his laidback approach, Dynamo caught the imagination of all he met and following sell-out stadium tours and successful TV shows it seemed like there was no stopping him.
But then suddenly things changed for the worse and he was reluctantly forced to take time off from the day job. A severe bout of food poisoning combined with Crohn’s Disease saw him admitted to hospital and when the treatment to alleviate the worst of the symptoms left him massively bloated rumours began to circulate on social media.
“This was the first time when I’d had to have medication which caused a physical impact,” says Dynamo, who has always talked openly about life with the condition. “It was too hard to ignore. People saw pictures of me online and were saying, ‘Look at him, he’s let himself go’, so I had to talk about it. Thankfully the NHS worked amazingly well to get me out of hospital and back on my feet.”
But that wasn’t the end of his problems and the debilitating disease left Dynamo with severe arthritis and on days unable to even hold a pack of cards.
Explaining his condition, he said: “There’s a bad type of arthritis affecting all the joints in my body which really sucks as a magician when you can’t shuffle a pack of cards because your hands are in so much pain but having said that my mind is still as sharp as it always was.”
It forced him to rethink some of the tricks for his most recent tour of New Zealand and that bout of ill health was also instrumental in sowing the seeds of his latest project.
Times Are Gone For The Honest Man is the somewhat cryptic title of his new show which opened in November in The Abandoned Room, a small, purpose-built theatre in the bowels of London’s upscale Mandrake Hotel. Although the idea for something along these lines had been tempting Dynamo for a few years, he had always been too busy to bring it to fruition.
“Over the last eight months, you know, I’ve had a bit more time on my hands. That’s one of the positives to come out of me falling ill.”
“I started performing magic in small rooms for small groups of people. It’s where I kind of honed my skills. One of the blessings and curses of success was that I couldn’t do that anymore. So this is the perfect entry point to bring me back into it – partly to take my mind off my illness with a deadline and something to focus on.”
It was Dynamo’s grandfather who taught him his first trick and turned a shy, bullied schoolboy into a celebrity sensation.
“When I was young my father was in jail, my mum was out studying at university and I was just left at home alone.
“I’d never been a stage school kid. I never went to drama school and I’ve never really had a desire to be on stage or even go out and perform for people. I was always quite nervous and I lived inside my own head. But because of the success I’ve almost been forced to confront some of my stage fright and I just became comfortable being in my own skin on stage in front of thousands of people.”
The secret, he says, is good storytelling. “I studied lots of the greats, a lot of magicians and a lot of actors, and I realise that the best performers in the world are the best storytellers.”
That’s why this show is all about telling stories. “It’s not just magic for magic’s sake, there’s this context of narrative.”
Since he’s already reinvented close-up magic, perfecting it for TV audiences, and created a brand of arena magic completely stripped of what normally surrounds largescale shows, paring it back just to him on a stage, he now hopes to do something similarly radical for stage magic.
After his 10-night run of The Abandoned Room is over, he will hand the space on to other renowned, hand-picked magicians for their own residencies, with Dynamo acting as a kind of curator or creative director. Fourteen years since bursting onto the scene, Dynamo is still as in love with magic as he was back when he first started burning DVDs in his bedroom.
He said: “There are not many things in the world anymore that surprise us. We have in our pockets phones that can literally change the world. But when you see great magic, you get that same feeling that comes when you see a great stage performer do a monologue, a footballer score a goal in the final of a tournament, or even the birth of your first child.
“For me, the magic is actually the emotion you create that takes over your body when you witness something inexplicable.”