Arguably, Dynamo’s best trick took place before he even took to the stage. Singlehandedly, he made some 3,000 mobile phones disappear. Yes, you read it right, 3,000 mobile phones completely disappeared, only to be seen again after his performance.
Being a magic show, one usually doesn’t want to reveal how the magic happened, but in this case, that trick was easy. The audience waiting for the show to begin were told in no uncertain terms that anyone caught photographing or filming would be asked to leave. Earlier, I’d been told that security would ask those caught to delete any images or be ejected from the venue. Even more extreme, I was informed that even texting during the performance was not permitted.
Clearly there was a paranoia about anyone sharing anything other than memories of Dynamo’s show. As his current tour runs to 80 dates (including no less than seven shows in Brighton) and one must assume it’s the same show every evening, he doesn’t want to give anything away to those seeing it for the first time. In that respect, one of the most impressive things about the performance was how fresh it felt. At no time, (excuse the pun) did it feel like Dynamo was going through the motions.
Dynamo has made his name with slight of hand close magic and large scale David Blaine-like stunts such as walking across the Thames, walking down a the side of building in LA and levitating above the Shard in London. He’s found fame among celebrities and through his TV show Magician Impossible. But taking those tricks into a live show is a whole different ball game. A TV show can use visual trickery, but onstage in front of a live audience, it’s a lot more tricky to trick people. To do it, takes big balls. And big balls do feature prominently throughout.
But let’s backtrack a moment. Seeing Is Believing as his first ever live show is called was apparently eight months in the making. It employs the same level of production you’d expect from a top pop band: lots of lighting, high quality projection and video sequences. The videos — mainly animated cartoons — are designed to familiarise the audience with Dynamo’s story: from his beginnings as a young kid in Bradford, bullied for being small, to what inspired him to become a magician. They do a good job of getting across how Stephen Frayne transformed himself into Dynamo and where he got his determination to achieve.
Today, despite now being 33, he cuts a diminutive figure. He even still wears the same red hoody he did as a kid and with his hood up he could pass as someone half his age. He still speaks in a high-pitched Yorkshire accent. He may be small in stature, but at all times he has the audience in the palm of his hand. The show is split into two forty-five minute sections, with each featuring a mix of short stage-based ‘illusions’ and much longer audience participation elements where Dynamo shows his power of prediction.
One of the key ways he gets you to believe what you see isn’t faked is the randomness with how audience participants are chosen, either by using balls bounced around the auditorium or in having them selected by those in the audience themselves.
Yes, it would be much more impressive if Dynamo had revealed the results before the tricks happen, rather than after they’d taken place, but even knowing that everything he does is a trick of some kind, they are so slick, you simply can’t fathom out how he does it and can only be impressed by his performance.
Without giving too much away, having earlier made 3,000 mobiles completely disappear, he went on to insert someone’s phone inside a glass bottle and ‘prove’ that it was indeed their phone by having someone else ring it. As good as he was, one audience member might just have left the Brighton Centre a little disappointed. Early on, she’d shouted “Can you make my boyfriend disappear?” Either Dynamo didn’t hear her, or it was a challenge too far!
Many claim Dynamo’s illusions rely on camera trickery, and that to perform them live would require him to have the power to stop and start real life. Well, at one point during his show, he did just that. One moment he was onstage, the next he was in the middle of the auditorium and re-enacting his walk back to the stage, talking with audience members exactly as he had done a short while earlier.
You knew he couldn’t have gone back to the future, but Dynamo made you believe that’s exactly what he did. Of course, as a member of the Inner Magic Circle, he’s forbidden from revealing the secrets of his trade. And why would he? After all, that’s what magic is all about. What he does say is “The only one who will ever know how I’ve done what I’ve done is me.”
Even if it was all sleight of hand or simply smoke and mirrors, it’s hard not to be impressed by Dynamo’s showmanship. Ultimately, his greatest trick is making what he does appear real. Whether or not you came away believing what you saw, the one thing you can’t dispute is that Dynamo gave a lot of people a mind-bending night.
Words: Gary Marlowe
Photo: Andrew Timms
Follow Dynamo at @Dynamomagician