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How health struggles gave Dynamo a reason to love magic again

After five years away from TV due to a career-threatening illness, Dynamo returns with a new, jaw-dropping three-part special. Georgia Humphreys finds out more from the much-loved magician

Magician Dynamo, real name Stephen Frayne, whose new series Dynamo: Beyond Belief launches on Sky One on Thursday

DYNAMO felt like a "bit of a performing monkey" when he decided to stop making his last TV show back in 2014. Magician Impossible, which ran for three series on UKTV, was a hit – but the Yorkshire-born star had lost his passion for telly.

"I was just making magic to fit in to the schedule that was given to us by the TV channel, and I didn't really enjoy it anymore," says the 37-year old, whose real name is Steven Frayne. "I missed that live show experience."

So, the next couple of years were spent doing magic on stage, touring all over the world, and performing in front of 12,000 people at the O2 Arena in London.

But then, in summer 2017, the TV personality – who in his teens was diagnosed with Crohn's disease (a long-term health condition in which parts of the digestive system become inflamed) – was taken to hospital because of a bout of food poisoning.

He ended up having to take a two-year hiatus, during which he has been brutally honest with his fans about his health battles.

In March 2018, he posted a video on his social media accounts explaining the effects of his medication regime; he had "put on quite a lot of body weight" and developed a rash. He also revealed that he had developed chronic arthritis, leaving him unable to shuffle cards because of the pain in his hands.

But now, it's time for a welcome return to our screens – with a new, cinematic Sky One series called Dynamo: Beyond Belief.

Following him around the world, we see him perform a spine-tingling encounter with a Geisha in Tokyo, make vodka shots turn to ice in Russia, and embark on a daring adventure in Mexico.

One particularly memorable (and dangerous) moment is when he drives a yellow taxi backwards through central Moscow – while blindfolded.

On the phone ahead of the show's release, Dynamo – who lives with wife Kelly Frayne – says he's still "not at full health. I'm like 85 per cent."

"But in some ways, it's made the TV show itself have so much more meaning to me," he continues. "I've put my heart and my soul into it, in a different way than any other show I've been in, because a lot of the ideas came whilst I was in the hospital, for this particular show.

"I've taken positives from a negative time in my life – and I think it will be interesting to see behind the magic."

He's referring to how, throughout the three episodes, we learn more about Dynamo's back story, as we follow him from the start of his illness, through to the height of his hospitalisation.

"In the first episode, I share a lot of personal videos where I'm not looking that great. But I think it's important for people to see we all have to go through troubles and trial and tribulations, and it's about what we take from those experiences that shape us that's important."

He recognises that's something which, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, will likely resonate with audiences.

"I've gone through something which was horrific, and I've come out the other side, and I'm able to share that story with people. So, hopefully people will receive it well, and I think in some ways, it's very timely and very relatable for people with what everyone's going through right now."

Having the time off gave Dynamo the chance to reflect on his work and find ways that he could improve it.

Being told he had arthritis – "the worst thing that could ever happen to a magician" – also forced him to re-evaluate.

"I couldn't even hold cards anymore or do any of the difficult things that I was used to doing, so I had to try and find a whole new approach to magic, and I think I've found that," he says, sounding upbeat.

"The magic in the new series is very different from anything you might have seen me do in the past, and luckily, throughout my rehabilitation, and working with physios and stuff, I was able to get a lot of my skill set back. So, in some ways I'm a better magician than I was before I got sick."

When we chat, it's the day after The Clap For Our Carers campaign saw the public come together to thank the NHS workers on the frontline.

And down-to-earth Dynamo is keen to take the chance to praise the doctors who did "such an amazing job working with me, plus all the nurses and the staff, even the cleaners.

"These are the unsung heroes and they're the ones that are really creating magic out there, and right now, I think the whole country is appreciating what they're doing.

"I was on my balcony last night clapping, like everybody else. I think the show in some ways is dedicated to the people who are doing real magic out there."

Dynamo points out he's "almost been a veteran of self-isolation, because when I was in hospital, they quarantined me because they thought I was contagious. So, for the first couple of weeks, I was having to isolate."

Also, he spent a lot of his childhood on his own in his bedroom, practising magic and reading books.

"The area I grew up in wasn't the sort of place where you could go and play football with your friends – it was a bit too dangerous," he notes.

And he has some advice for us all going forward; create structure in your day, keep in touch with people and see it as the perfect opportunity to learn a new skill.

"Isolation is only as bad as we let it make us feel," he suggests. "And if we treat it from a different perspective, then we can make the most of it. If we all use the time wisely, we can hopefully come out of the other end a better person."

:: Dynamo: Beyond Belief launches on Sky One on Thursday April 9

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