Losing your illusion

GRAND illusionist Cosentino has built a reputation on his spectacular stage magic, death-defying escapes and dangerous stunts, but he doesn’t always emerge unscathed.
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‘‘I’ve got seven stitches on my forehead from my first escape, 12 across my chin, two cracked ribs, broken fingers and I’ve had a broken left ankle from an upside-down straightjacket escape,’’ the Melburnian said.

‘‘The escapes are real – they’re real locks, real chains, real water, real knives – but of course it’s a calculated risk, I know my timing, I know my practice.

‘‘The danger is real and when things go wrong it is scary to get back on the horse and do it again but the good thing about the really big escapes or stunts is you only do them once – if you get injured, you’re done and then we move on.’’

It’s been a remarkable journey for Cosentino, whose first name is Paul, from reading a book of magic at primary school and mastering a coin trick, to becoming the first Australian to be awarded by the International Magicians Society the prestigious international Merlin Award for Most Original Magician. The Merlins are to magic what the Oscars are to movies.

‘‘I was very shy and introverted and the magic book was where I first saw all these vaudevillian posters of Harry Houdini and all these great magicians, I was fascinated with that,’’ he said.

‘‘In the back of the book they had these tricks so my mum [school principal Rosemary] started reading them to me and I started learning them, but no one knew what I did.

‘‘As my reading began to improve I gained a skill that was very unique – magic – and my confidence increased and I would use it as a tool to talk to people.’’

Cosentino performed magic regularly to pay his way through the first year of a business degree, but in 2002 was offered a six-month contract to perform on a cruise ship travelling around the US and Canada, and started making a living out of the art.

After returning to Australia, he honed his craft touring with theatre groups and in 2008 had the second-largest touring show in the country.

But it was his breathtaking escapes – interspersed with Michael Jackson-inspired dance moves across the stage – on Australia’s Got Talent that had the country collectively catching their breath.

‘‘Since the beginning of time mankind has wanted to fly, mankind has wanted to walk through walls, mankind has wanted to be invisible and I’m tapping into that,’’ he said about his popularity on the show.

‘‘Even as an adult all those elements touch you, even for a minute, in that small way and you say ‘I remember when I was a kid and I wanted to…’

‘‘So you’re tapping into this very raw nerve that goes back to your childhood.

‘‘You’re doing things that are absolutely amazing, you’re seeing me disappear and reappear in audiences, you’re seeing me levitate someone through the air, you’re doing things that defy the laws of nature.

‘‘If you’re a good illusionist you wrap it in story and mystery and you’re basically sending the message to the audience that we don’t know all the secrets and that’s a good thing because mystery is wonderful, it makes you wonder ‘What else? What about this, and that?’.’’

Cosentino addresses his loyal fans as believers, but is aware that some visitors to his shows are likely to be sceptics.

‘‘People who say ‘But it’s not real’, I’m so confused by that, my answer is always ‘Yeah, I don’t disagree with you’,’’ he said.

‘‘I don’t even know how to answer that question.

‘‘When people say ‘It’s not real, it’s a trick’, well, I just told you it was a trick.

‘‘It is an illusion, it is smoke and mirrors, it is fantasy.

‘‘If you’re going to watch a movie like Avatar you know that those aliens don’t exist, you know those aliens aren’t real, but you suspend disbelief and you go with the story.’’

Cosentino is reluctant to go into too much detail about what Newcastle audiences can expect from his show, but said he will venture inside the belly of a scorpion closely followed by a 40-inch blade and, for the final act, will be shot at with arrows.

Cosentino will bring his The Magic, The Mystery, The Madness tour to Civic Theatre Newcastle on Wednesday, October 16. Tickets from livenation南京夜网.au.

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