Magic is about showmanship and publicity, but for one illusionist—Dynamo—it’s more about sharing small moments of wonder. And that’s what makes him Magician Impossible…
Chances are, if you saw Steven Frayne on the street you wouldn’t give him a second glance. Slightly built with a gentle lisp and cow-licked hair, the 35-year-old magician known as “Dynamo” is cut from a different cloth than the usual slick, smooth-talking showmen. But don’t be fooled. Against all the odds, this unassuming character has reinvented magic for the 21st century. “People aren’t coming to watch magic shows”, the Brit told Square Mile, “so we need to bring the magic to them”.
A working-class, mixed-race kid from Bradford, England, Frayne learned his first trick—making himself seem incredibly heavy to stop bullies pushing him around—from his grandfather. “It got people off my back”, he explained, “but at the same time I was already a loner, so scaring people away made me even more of a loner”.
As a teenager, Dynamo was diagnosed with the chronic bowel condition Crohn’s Disease—which might not have helped his social confidence—but it didn’t stop him hustling his way into the limelight. He made his own guerrilla-style magic DVD, featuring flabbergasted contributions from Coldplay and Snoop Dogg, then sold it from his bedroom, shifting 8,000 units in the first month. Once the mainstream caught-on, he launched his Dynamo: Magician Impossible TV show, which ran from 2011 to 2014 and racked up 400 million viewers across 180 territories. Since then, he’s received celebrity endorsements from the likes of Brad Pitt, Kate Moss and Will Smith, while the Academy of Magical Arts named him Magician Of The Year 2015. So what is it, exactly, that makes him stand out from the crowd?
In the world of magic, publicity stunts are nothing new—remember when David Blaine spent 44 days suspended in a glass box above London’s River Thames? —But Dynamo’s MO is as subtle as his tricks are staggering. In 2013, when he appeared to levitate in front of Rio de Janeiro’s Christ The Redeemer statue, he simply strolled up unannounced and launched himself into the air in front of a crowd of awe-struck tourists. He used the same technique when he “walked” across the Thames in 2011. “I didn’t tell anybody I was going to do it, I didn’t advertise it,” he told The Guardian. “It was about that moment, and anybody who happened to be there got to witness a spectacle that will never happen again. It’s always about keeping that sense of wonder. I get to create little moments of astonishment.”
Ironically, it’s these little moments of astonishment that help sell the trick. In the latter case, hidden cameras show Dynamo walking towards the river in his hoodie, while the people around him go about their business unaware. Then, as he steps onto the surface of the water, they start pointing and chattering, which escalates to open-mouthed bewilderment when they realise the impossibility of what they’re seeing. Dynamo has said before that “misdirection is the biggest part of the trick,” but by approaching the extraordinary so ordinarily he becomes the misdirection himself, and it’s this grounding that makes his magic soar.
And it’s not just the magic that’s soaring. In 2016, Dynamo became the first-ever magician to play London’s 20,000-capacity 02 Arena, and his next show, The Abandoned Room, takes place this month in a specially-built, 96-seat speakeasy in the capital’s Mandrake Hotel. Whatever the venue, Dynamo continues to captivate, because his tricks are not about showing-off, but sharing. “Magic’s an emotion that someone feels when they’ve witnessed something amazing,” he said. “I want it to be an experience that we have together.”
In other words, if you do spot Steven Frayne on the street, make sure you keep watching.
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