Have you ever witnessed a man being sawed into half or a woman escaping a water tank with a locked lid?
Sounds impossible. But, not for the Impossible team, a group of daredevils, illusionists and conjurers who will take over the UAE with their show Impossible at the Dubai Opera from September 26 to 30.
After staging a successful show at the London’s West End, the Impossible team have a slew of neat tricks, dare-devilry and mind-boggling illusions up their sleeves. There’s even a fun segment in which a mind-reader will make it his business to steal your thoughts.
tabloid! caught up with the men and women behind the magic.
Who: Chris Cox
His role: Mind reader
You know him from: The magic series Killer Magic on BBC3
What should we expect from Impossible?
Impossible is the biggest show in the world because you will see every form of magic you can think of. The weird thing is that people think that a magic show is only about one type of trick. But we show everything: there’s grand illusions, escapology and death-defying stunts. It’s dangerous and then there’s me being funny by reading people’s minds. This is the greatest show that you could ever see.
Tell us more about your role in it?
I am a mind reader who can’t read minds. I am like any other person, I can’t read minds. But I can tell you that there are different techniques to get into people’s heads and I find fun ways to be funny with it.
There’s a lot of audience participation and there’s even a section where the audience comes up on stage and are asked to think about what they want to see me do on stage. If you are coming to the show then you might get a chance to be on the stage. We just finished the show in London and I was doing Macarena and Gangnam Style. Someone even made me do ballet one night and I have a feeling that someone in Dubai will make me sing a opera.
Once they control my mind, I begin reading their minds.
How embarrassing does it get?
Most of the embarrassment is reserved for me. They [the audience] control me. I want to make people laugh and I don’t mind looking like an idiot. Many a times, people hope that they are not picked by me, but after they see what happens they wish they were picked too. These are wonderful moments where you buy a ticket for a show, but get a chance to be the star of the show for a few minutes. You get to stand on the amazing Dubai opera stage and entertain thousands of people. That’s pretty amazing.
How orchestrated are your routines?
Part of the magic of a magic show is to make you feel like it’s the first time that we are doing it. Even though we are working on the same material, I am always a different person for each show. So how they respond as an audience allows me to respond and adapt the material to who they are and what they are like. There is a lot of improvisation and making stuff up as we go along. I like to play with the audience. During a magic show, it’s playtime for us and the audience. It is like being kids on the playground because magic gives you a chance to enjoy a child-like wonder. Illusions make you feel as if anything is possible again.
Is this a magic show for adults? Impossible looks refined and appears to go beyond the rabbit and the hat trick.
Totally. It is a family magic show. We genuinely look at the audience and see six-year-olds to 60-year-olds in the audience. There is something for everyone there. It’s a Western magic show and there’s story to our tricks. There’s great lighting and it’s jaw-dropping.
With the advent of social media and virtual videos, why do you think people should pay to watch live shows?
Otherwise we won’t get paid [laughs]. Magic is great and all of us are careful about what we put out on social media and YouTube because there is no better way to see magic than to see it live. Watching it online or on TV makes you wonder if the trick is a camera trick. But when you are in a room experiencing it with your own eyes, it’s the greatest feeling of wonder. There is also a chance that you will get to be a part of the trick and that will make you realise that none of it is set up. By seeing it live, you realise that we are genuinely there to make the impossible possible. Although the show is called impossible, but there is a lot of possibility.
Your career is an unconventional one. How did you get into it?
I remember vividly how I got into this. I was ten years old and I was at home. Then a post came which was delivered by an owl and I spent about six years at Hogwarts. I even have a friend called Harry something ... But jokes aside, I blame my parents a little bit because they got me a magic kit when I was little and I always liked performing and entertaining. Plus, I always wanted to be on the stage. At school I began studying psychology and that made me wonder if I can mix a bit of psychology with magic. The life of a magician is a weird life. Last week I was reading the minds of one of the biggest Snapchatters in London and next week I am going to work on my new TV series. But my favourite thing is to do a live show. It is the greatest feeling on earth to be on the stage and entertain. It is also a job that has people applauding you at the end.
You never get out of Uber taxi and applaud the taxi driver for the ride.
But what’s the downside of being a magician?
It’s only some real middle-class nightmare as there is a lot of travelling. But your brain changes slightly when you start doing magic because you start thinking differently. You become a critical thinker because you constantly analyse and over-analyse. You also become cynical and wonder if there’s any trick involved to stuff. When I am seeing a film, my mind is trying to work out what the ending is going to be. That’s a bit of a nuisance.
What’s your take on magicians being portrayed as dark and broody in Hollywood films?
Throughout history, magicians are portrayed as dark and mysterious. They guard their secrets. There is subterfuge and sabotage in the early 1900s. But it’s more open and people are now aware that we don’t have any of those special powers. Magic is not a real thing but we are very good at making you believe that we can do it. Our job is to create illusion and fantasy.
Who: Ben Hart
His role in Impossible: Magician
What tricks will you be showing at the Dubai Opera?
I will be doing all sorts of magic tricks: Close-up magic and magic that is rooted in story-telling. I do improvisation as well.
What are your rehearsals like?
We have been doing this show around the world. So it won’t be a rehearsal in the conventional sense. But since we are new to Dubai, we understand that every place is different and the audiences react differently. Before the show, I will find a gap from the curtains to look at the audience and see what they look like as they come in. You have to be attentive.
What is your biggest fear?
It may sound weird but I don’t have any fear. I have done so many shows by now and everything that can go wrong has gone wrong before. I have fallen over, forgotten my lines or knocked my props over and came out just fine. I am still standing and you just hope that the audience will love you.
They describe Impossible as the world’s most dangerous magic show. Why?
I am vanilla, but there are lots of dangerous stunts to be seen in this show. We have got daredevils who do some death-defying stunts. I make people laugh and think.
How have magic shows evolved the years?
In Impossible, we have big and small tricks that are projected live. Videos and technology allows us to do close-up magic and intimate tricks. That is the main evolution. Magic has to keep up with the changing technology. Our attention spans are getting shorter and shorter, so everything has to move at a quick pace. So our show is fast, energetic and contemporary.
Who: Richard Essien a.k.a Magical Bones
His role in Impossible: Break-dancing and magic
You know him from: Magical Bones has worked with pop stars including Madonna, Alicia Keys and Plan B
What’s your role in Impossible?
I will be doing a mixture of close-up street magic, break-dancing and back flips.
Who has been your idol?
I am inspired by Michael Jackson because I consider him the biggest entertainer of all times. The way he was able to mix and blend different types of entertainment is something I want to emulate in my performance.
What’s your day like?
I wake up and train. I do 300 sit-ups and 300 push-ups. It takes about 45 minutes in the morning. I am constantly practicing my dance moves because you don’t want to ever get complacent.
Who: Josephine Lee
Her role in Impossible: Illusionist and escapologist
What tricks do you have up your sleeve?
I will do the grand illusions and the biggest stunt in this show. I will do the water-escape stunt and I will walk through a wall too. With the water escape stunt, you can never fully relax. I am in a tank full of water with a lid that is padlocked. There is always a bit of pressure. I am in the tank for two minutes and you never know what is going to happen. You can prepare as much as want, but you never know how it will all turn out.
How do you keep calm?
It’s all in your head. It’s mentally challenging because being under water is not easy. You need to focus on yourself and remain calm. If you panic, your heart will start to race and your energy will be used. So this stunt takes discipline and training.
It’s good to see a woman in this show. Is that uncommon?
They are always surprised that I am a woman. Impossible is a magic show where there are two females. It’s wonderful that we can do stunts and we bring something new to the table. It’s not every day that you meet a female magician.
Why do you think that you are under-represented?
There are several reasons. When you are young, it’s usually the boys who are doing the card tricks. As a teenager, you don’t know many girls who want to do card tricks. It’s just to do with the [conditioning] of these two different sexes.
I belonged to a theatrical and dance background. So that influenced me a great deal.
Who: Sabine Van Diemen
Her role in Impossible: Conjurer who can saw men into half
How did you get involved with magic shows?
I am from Holland and when I was 18, I was attending a magic show when during dress rehearsals, the magician’s assistant broke an ankle. They were searching for a girl and randomly picked me, saying I have an hour to learn the 20-minute act. The opening night went off splendidly and I fell in love with the adrenaline rush and the gasping that you hear from the audience. Also, it’s great to be a woman magician. I like to get into that power struggle. So, I am the first woman to ever saw a man into half. Usually, it’s the other way round. There’s always a male magician sawing their female assistant in half.
What are the challenges associated with sawing a man into half?
A magician needs to be a bright person. You have to talk, present, think and be alert. You need to combine those skills and not be afraid of any elements like fire, water, air or earth.
What is your advice to other magician hopefuls?
Just do it.
Don’t miss it!
Where: Dubai Opera
When: September 26 to 30
Tickets: Dh250 onwards