Houdini's 'heir': Interview with magician Cosentino

By Tay Yek KeakEvents - 11 September 2014 6:00 AM | Updated 3:12 PM

Houdini's 'heir': Interview with magician Cosentino

Cosentino is hard to define.

Call him a magician, and you are limiting him.

Say he’s an illusionist, and you’re making light of his wide range of talents.

Nail him down as an escapologist, and you are, no pun intended, shackling him.

The only way to describe him is that he’s all three.

Cosentino performs at 2014 Singapore Grand Prix

Billed as “Australia’s greatest magician” and hailed as heir to legendary escape artist Harry Houdini of the 1910s to 1920s, 31-year-old Melbourne native Paul Cosentino defies locks, chains, weights and shackles.

The illusionist was in town earlier this year for the launch of RTL-CBS channels on mio TV, and captivated the invited audience as he swallowed razors, shuffled cards, and, in the main showcase act, escaped with bare seconds to spare from a contraption with murderously sharp knives set up to basically skewer his head.  

RTL-CBS Extreme HD will be airing his TV spectaculars – titled ‘Cosentino’ – featuring his escape stunts, grand illusions, behind-the-scenes preparation, and, of course, puzzling card tricks which see him “freaking people out in the streets”, as he describes with a naughty evil glint in his eye.  

Now, interviewing him in person, I can attest safely to the fact that this sensational magic man is a very nice and charming guy. He didn’t make me or my wallet vanish into thin air.

The magician will also be performing at the 2014 Formula One Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix where he will be showing off his tricks in Zone 1 of the circuit park. 

Chains off, Cosentino tells inSing what being a free, magical spirit unbound is like. 

How did you start doing magic?

I started doing magic when I was 12 years old. As a child, I was very shy and introverted with low self-esteem. I wasn’t very good at reading and spelling. Then I discovered a magic book with vaudevillian pictures and posters of Harry Houdini, the amazing magician. My mother would read the book to me and I would learn these tricks and secrets. It helped me overcome my reading difficulties and built up my self-confidence. You’ve got to imagine a shy kid having difficulties at school and all of a sudden, having these skills that nobody else had. That’s a very powerful situation for any boy to be in. That’s where the magic started.  

What’s the allure of magic for you?

It is being able to do the impossible. I used to read comic books and was very much into superheroes. To some degree, magic allows me to live that fantasy. I can do things that can’t be done. I can pick locks, jump into water tanks and hold my breath. There are trap doors, secret compartments, wires, knives and sliding mirrors. It’s like being in a James Bond world. And a magician is mysterious; you never see his full talent. It’s hidden. It’s a mystery.

Which are you? An escapologist, an illusionist or a street magician?

I’m all three. I’m very blessed to be able to do my TV shows to prove this. Very few magicians – and I’m talking carefully here – can do all three. Street magic is wonderful because it’s one-on-one, very organic. Performing illusions on stage allows me to be more theatrical, elaborate, more over the top. And escapes are absolute challenges. A big underwater escape takes two months of practice, rehearsal, fitness and all kinds of things – chains, locks and weights – to figuratively perform for just two minutes. I like escapes because they push not just the body but also the human mind itself. 

Is the danger real?

The danger is real. If it weren’t real, I wouldn’t spend two months training. On my first TV show, I escaped from six metres underwater. One of my eardrums ruptured. Blood gushed out of my ear. In the escape act I did here in Singapore for the TV show promo, I got 12 stitches across my chin. These aren’t things that I can fake. Escapes push the boundaries. That’s what I find them so exciting.

Do you feel fear?

As an escape artist, you don’t think about fear. If you’re doing an underwater escape, the worst thing to do is to panic. You increase your heart rate, you get nervous, it’s dangerous. So you need to be as calm as possible. When a knife cuts you or you break your ankle, however, you will get scared. But you must get back on your horse and do it again. 

David Copperfield made the Statue Of Liberty disappear. What is the one magic trick you most want to do? 

I’d like to make Ayers Rock disappear. Yeah, our gigantic rock right in the middle of Australia.

Do you know Copperfield, David Blaine and Criss Angel? Is there camaraderie or rivalry among magicians?

I think there’s a bit of both. Magicians keep our secrets to ourselves because we need to keep developing our acts.  But on the flipside, our community is small. We admire each other’s work. I’ve met Copperfield, Criss Angel and David Blaine, and they’re all lovely guys. We all respect each other’s work. 

Do you have the ability to distract me and do something like maybe take something from me without me knowing? 

Look, there’s an element of trickery and body-language reading involved in something like that. When I talk to you, I look you straight in the eye and match your body language. This helps me judge the situation and create the effect of reading your mind. I don’t want to give too much away but it can go beyond that too. 

Man, that’s creepy. Quick, tell us something quirky about yourself.

I like to sit under the shower. After a shower, I leave the water on and sit down in a corner. I know that’s a bit strange but I like doing it. The water is very relaxing. And oh, this is my real hair. All my hair is real.       

Catch Cosentino at the 2014 Formula One Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix | Date: 19-21 Sep 2014 | Time: Various | Venue: Zone 1, Marina Bay Street Circuit (Fri: Roving, Sat-Sun: Sail Stage) | Tickets: $38-$1,088 from www.singaporegp.sg 

Watch Cosentino on RTL CBS Extreme HD (SingTel mio TV Ch 335) | Date: 18, 19, 25, 26 Sep | Time: 10pm

F1 2014: Formula 1 Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix

F1 2014: Formula 1 Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix

Date Sep 19, 2014 - Sep 21, 2014

VenueMarina Bay Street Circuit

Ticket PriceS$68.00 - S$1,288.00
 (excludes booking fee)