Ahead of this groundbreaking touring show, we chat exclusively with Andrew Basso, one of the most talented illusionists makes waves across the world.
Can you tell us about your first ever encounter with the illusionary world and how it made you want to become an illusionist?
My first encounter with magic or illusion happened when I was 7 years old. I saw a magician on a small table with three cups and three balls doing a magic trick.The spark that I remember was this guy doing simple things enough to change my mothers expression. She was very serious and I’d never seen my mother so happy and astonished. I said ‘if he can do that, that’s I want to do that too’.
What was the first trick you ever performed?
That was the first trick I ever performed – with the cups and little sponge balls.
Do you need any particular qualifications/accreditation to become an illusionist?
No you don’t need any qualifications to become an illusionist. At the moment there are no recognised schools/universities in order for you to come out saying ‘I am an illusionist’. It’s a self made process but there are many magic communities and clubs – for example the magic circle here in England, which is one of the most prestigious places to share magic.
You do need to study and have more knowledge than a surgeon, but nobody can tell you what to study or what to learn, you have to find your own way.
Who’s had the biggest influence?
What did he bring to the craft that generated such acclaim?
He understood that to create such acclaim, you have to add suspense and danger. He used to say ‘the easiest way to attract a crowd is to do something that, in case of failure, will be a certain death’
Your biggest trick is a homage to Houdini’s famous escape from the water tank – did you ever lose your head and panic while in there?
Only once on the opening night of the Illusionists first show at the Sydney Opera House. They had to almost break the water tank to take me out.
Are you surprised that the blend of theatre and magic has never been attempted in such a manner before?
I am amazed from the results of the Illusionists production, it’s the size of a rock concert! The choreography, the dancers, the live music by the Z band, and the work of Neil Dorward are a mix that’s never been done before.
Do you and your fellow performers ever feel like the ‘rock stars’ of magic?
Yes I do, big time! First because on stage everybody wants to have very different characters, the producer took seven illusionists with very different styles, strong characters and looks. And me more than anybody on stage, dresses like a rock star with a leather jacket and boots. With the live music and the pyrotechnic effects we have on stage, it’s a rock concert made of magic.
Had you ever studied the history of magic before going into the business?
Yes I have. Actually all the history I have read on magic, especially about Houdini’s life is what has helped me to create my career now.
What is the most important lesson that you’ve learned in your career so far?
That I am never aware enough of the danger. I am never paying enough attention – there is always something hidden that could happen. So the lesson I have learned is to never underestimate danger, because the moment you are not paying attention is the moment accidents will happen.
What do you feel is the best way to learn magic, if interested in doing so?
Get lessons from someone who really knows the craft.
If you could be any great historical magician, who would you choose and why?
Jesus, because first of all he came back from the dead, and second of all they would still talk about me after 2000 years, and I could sell a lot of merchandise!
Are you all members of the Magic Circle, and what is it?
No we aren’t all members of the Magic Circle. I have never been to the Magic Circle as I have never been to England before. All the others are Americans, except for Philip. We’re not members because we haven’t had a chance to go there yet. Although, I hope I will be a member by the end of the tour.
The Magic Circle is one of the most prestigious magic communities in the world, where magicians meet, learn and share their deepest magic secrets.
Do you think magic could be used in public life, for example education, given set purposes?
Yes, for sure. The secrets of magic comes from science principles, mathematic principles and magic can be used to explain some things that we learn at school. For example making an object levitate – we can explain what gravity is and the absence of gravity.
Can anyone be a magician, or do you need a specific set of skills?
Anyone can learn some magic, but very few can be a magician. You need an inner skill that you cannot control or learn.
You’re soon touring the UK with the Illusionists. Can you tell us how you ended up becoming part of their team?
I was in a TV show in Italy featuring big names in the magic world and one of the big guests on the show suggested my name to the producer of The Illusionists. Six months later, I was at The Sydney Opera House.
The tour is called “Witness The Impossible.” What impossible things can people expect from your shows?
You will see a shocking moment when a man is cut in half with a chainsaw with no boxes. You will see a locomotive appear in a flash, you will see a romantic flurry of snow appear in the theatre and for the first time in history, a full view water torture cell escape.
Do you have a specific ritual before you go on stage?
I kiss the stage before I step on it, thanking the stage for embracing me.
If you could pick any person to assist you on stage, who would it be and why?
I would pick a policeman or a locksmith. I would pick the policeman because I could use his handcuffs and makes the illusion more challenging and I would pick the locksmith because he can check that everything I do is fair.
Having played all round the world, what do you hope Portsmouth’s audiences will take from the show, and indeed give to it?
I hope that Portsmouth audiences will take an unforgettable memory that hopefully was shared with the whole family, since the show is great for kids and grandparents alike and obviously a lot of fun.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell our readers?
I want to say to the readers see you on the 10th October. Follow me on my twitter @andrewbasso
Written by Jutta Lasner and Chris Morley