Who’s Jamie Raven, anyway?
He’s the charmer who made Simon Cowell believe in magic, for a start.
“Somebody once said to me, who I really respect, that there are a lot of people who do tricks and there are a few people who actually can do magic, and I think we just saw that,” were Cowell’s exact words, leaving Raven close to tears.
This was at his Britain’s Got Talent audition last year, which got him a unanimous ‘yes’ from the judges, 20 million views on YouTube and a spot in Cowell’s good graces.
Alas, the Hammersmith lad didn’t go home with gold, but he came in second only to a dancing dog act. Let’s face it — canines boogying? Nobody stood a chance.
Raven’s spot as a runner-up didn’t come without its ups and downs, and a few BGT fans were up in arms when his tricks seemed obvious. That’s the name of the game, according to him — a good magician is a magician who turns casual viewers into rabid detectives.
This Friday and Saturday, the jovial, down-to-earth magician will hit the stage at Abu Dhabi’s Emirates Palace to keep his UAE fans guessing. He tells tabloid! all about the show he’s got planned — and the 22-year-old piece of rope that started it all.
What do you have planned for your shows in the UAE?
In magic, there’s lots of different styles of performing. You’ve got the very close-up, intimate illusions, you’ve got the bigger, grand scale spectacular stunts, and there’s bits where you get people up to come and help. I’m doing all of those things. It’s two hours of having fun. Most of the tricks involve getting people out of the audience to help in some way or another. We’re just trying to entertain people, make them laugh as much as they are amazed at all the tricks.
What’s your favourite trick of the tour?
My absolute favourite is the trick I finish the first half with. I get one of the younger members of the audience up, and they fly — they levitate, they float up in the air. The reason it’s my favourite [is that] yeah, it’s a great trick and it looks amazing and it’s fooling, because you can’t see how it’s happening, but when they come back down again, it’s just that smile, the look on their face — to them, it’s real magic. That’s what we do it for.
Do you remember the first magic trick you ever learned?
I was about 10, in India, having a meal with family and friends, and a magician came to our table and showed us some tricks. After, he taught us one — it’s called the Indian Rope trick. You have a piece of rope — it’s just normal rope lying on the table. You snap your fingers or you cast a spell or whatever you do, and the rope stands up. You snap your fingers again and it goes back down. I’ve still got that, I’ve left it on my shelf. 22 years ago, that journey started.
The tour’s been a lifelong dream for you. Were you involved in every aspect of putting it together?
The only thing I wasn’t involved was the choosing of the venues. But everything else — the lights, the music, everything — if you don’t like it, you just have me to blame.
Does it take away from the magic when you have to figure out the logistics on a tour this size?
Not at all. Because I know how the tricks work, so to me, the experience I get out of it is different to the people watching the show. We’re doing this because people are going to come and spend their money that they worked really hard to earn, and they’re going to give us their time — the most valuable commodity you can give anyone in this world is your time. Everyone who comes is giving me the privilege of taking that from them for two hours, so I’ll put anything I have into making sure they enjoy it as much as they can.
You mentioned it’s going to be an interactive show.
Most of the tricks, 90 per cent of the show, will involve people in the audience, because that’s my favourite style of magic. When you get people right up close, it’s the decision they make that affects how the trick pans out, and therefore, it’s different every night — it’s exciting, it could go wrong at any time. Hopefully it won’t…
Or hopefully it will?
[laughs] You know what? Even if it does, it would be funny, anyway, so it doesn’t matter, because people are going to have some fun.
What’s a magic show you’ve gone to in the past that’s really stuck with you?
The best is David Copperfield, when I saw him in Las Vegas. He was so funny and so tight, and the production is amazing. He just did so many incredible things in such a short period of time.
And of course you were on Britain’s Got Talent — what was the biggest lesson you learned from that experience?
I’d been doing this professionally for 11 years before I went on that show, I knew what the situation was — I knew that if I was successful, people were going to scrutinise everything that I did. Obviously it was live, so things could go wrong. I accept that. But I went and I did these tricks, [and] the one I did in my audition has now been seen [20 million] times. When [20 million] people watch a magic trick, a lot of them will try to work it out. They’ll come up with different theories. If no one tried to work it out, it means they’re not interested in you and what you do. The fact that they do try is the highest compliment to someone like me.
Whatever I do, somebody will come up with an explanation of how it works. Now, they will probably be wrong, but it doesn’t matter — that’s their opinion and they’re entitled to it. All I can do is the next time I do the trick — if someone says to me, ‘Oh, it was in your left hand’, I’ll stand there and I’ll have a drink in my left hand, so they know that at no point was I using my left hand. In the nicest possible way, I’m going to say, ‘You’re wrong, but have another guess, because I want you to come back again and tell me how you think I did it.’ They’ll keep coming back, and that’s the game.
Magic, I’ll be clear about this, magic is the vehicle that I use to entertain people. I’m not claiming anything, I’m not trying to make you believe anything, believe whatever you want. But you come and you try and work it out, because that’s your prerogative, and I embrace that.
If you’re watching another magician, are you trying to figure out what they’re doing, too?
I don’t any more. I used to when I was growing up, but now, my job is to try to entertain people with magic. And I like to be fooled. I like watching magic tricks. So if someone shows me something I haven’t seen before, I just sit and watch it and enjoy it for what it is. I could if I wanted to sit down and work out how I think it works — I might be right, I might be wrong — but I think it’s important to remember that feeling of wonder. It’s important to me to remember what that’s like.
*Tickets to see Jamie Raven are Dh150-Dh250 from ticketmaster.ae.