Ahead of his show in our Great Hall on Fri 23 October, we caught up with dazzling magician Ben Hart to find out more about his route into magic, his experience on Britain’s Got Talent last year and how lockdown has inspired new tricks and a new way of performing.
Ben Hart: 2 Metre Magic book tickets
What got you into magic in the first place?
I have been performing magic for all of my life – I cannot remember a time when I wasn’t interested in it, so the origins of my interest remain, (rather suitably) a mystery. I do remember that I used to check out a book in my local library over and over again which wasn’t really written for a child and contained “professional” magic secrets and it had the address of a magic shop in the back of the book which I used to write letters to and order magic tricks from over the phone. The world of magic was ever more elusive without the instant connection of the internet. My brother had a Paul Daniels’ magic set, but I remember feeling uninspired by it.
Where is the craziest place you’ve performed?
The life of a performer can be pretty strange! Over the years I have performed in every conceivable situation. One night I could be performing in the back room of a pub and the next onstage at The London Palladium. Every type of venue has its own strengths and weaknesses and requires an adaptable approach. I think the craziest place I’ve ever performed was for a run of shows in a 10 000 seat arena in the Philippines where I was treated like a rock star, with huge billboards of my face etc and was confronted by a sea of deafening screaming. I didn’t know magic could attract such a huge following, but it did!
I was once flown to a remote island in Indonesia to perform just 2 tricks (about 10 mins). I guess that’s pretty crazy – days of travelling for a very short show.
How was the Britain’s Got Talent experience last year?
BGT was a life-changing experience. It allowed me to reinforce my fan-base and opened a lot of interesting doors for me. It’s a very stressful show with lots of pressures placed on the performers but I was lucky to have material that I had honed over a lot of live shows and that I was very comfortable doing. Everyone loves magic but it rarely gets a comfortable place on television and so it’s been amazing to see that the public respond so positively to magic on that show. I think it helped me to reach audiences who might not have been familiar with my work and it allowed me to move from performing largely at private events where the audience might not actually be expecting to see a magician to public shows where the audience has come specifically to see me, which makes the whole thing a lot more enjoyable.
If you could only do one trick for the rest of your life, which one would it be?
I have a magic trick with a Peach that really appeals to me. It is very direct, short and easy to understand. It can be performed without words and never fails to get a powerful reaction. Also, it doesn’t use any special magicians props or anything like that. I’m very very proud of it. I’d like to be able to tell you more about it, but I don’t want to reveal too much! Magic is at its most exciting when it remains a surprise…
How have you adapted your new show to be performed in the current climate?
The main thing I have done Is removed almost all of the audience participation from the show. This presented something of a creative challenge because magic shows are exciting because they are interactive. I have re-worked the tricks to avoid contact with the audience. Because of the nature of the current situation, this is a smaller and more intimate show than I usually present. There are no big props and the show is much more casual – it’s great fun to perform for me as I consider it like an ‘acoustic” set where I get to really show off my skills without the flash of the larger show. Magic works really well when it is stripped-back!
Did lockdown bring new inspiration for tricks?
Yes it did! Necessity is the mother of invention and it was necessary for me to really critically look at my material and what needed to be put “on hold” until the world normalises a bit. This meant that I re-discovered a lot of old material that I wasn’t doing and I started writing new stuff, informed by current trends. I am working on a whole new routine about lockdown! I also managed to take a long break from magic to try to fill my brain with other inspirations. I spent a lot of time in nature and read a lot of books, which always gets my brain thinking…
What can the audience expect from 2 Metre Magic?
A show of stripped-back magic achieved with pure sleight of hand and storytelling magic achieved with pure sleight of tongue!
Ben Hart: 2 Metre Magic performs live in our Great Hall on Fri 23 October. This show is socially distanced. For more information on what that means and the changes to your experience click here.