Magician impossible Ben Hart on his latest show, Britain's Got Talent and teaching Tom Cruise magic

Sophie Clarke chats to world-renowned magician Ben Hart about performing in Belfast for the first time, reaching the final of Britain's Got Talent and teaching Tom Cruise magic on the set of Mission: Impossible...

Ben Hart is bringing his new show Jadoo to The MAC Belfast. Image: Matt Crockett.
Ben Hart is bringing his new show Jadoo to The MAC Belfast. Image: Matt Crockett.

FOR someone whose stock in trade is baffling his audiences, it's perhaps reassuring that magician Ben Hart can also find himself baffled from time to time.

The reason for his puzzlement? Why it's taken him so long to get round to visiting Belfast, where he brings his show to The MAC on November 8. 

“It’s not only the first time I’ve ever performed in Belfast, but it’s the first time I’ve ever been to Belfast, which is really terrible when I travel so much, and Belfast is so close..." he confesses.

Hart's show, Jadoo, is named after the Hindu term for 'magic-working' and was inspired by a trip to India earlier this year.

“Jadoo comes from 'jadoo-wallah', which is a travelling street magician. My dad's side of the family are from India, and I had heard stories about travelling jadoo-wallahs coming to perform in the town square or sometimes in the middle of the night in the street and all these amazing stories," the 33-year-old explains.

“So, I thought, wow, I should do a show based on Indian street magic and so that led to me going to India and connecting a little bit with my heritage on my dad's side. It’s the ultimate cliché of an artist who goes to India, finds themselves and it’s reflected in their work."

“As a result, we’ve ended up with a show that feels very different to a normal magic show. It’s still funny and baffling and all the things the audience want, but there’s also a little bit more depth to it”, assures Ben.

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Although Ben keeps his cards close to his chest as a member of the Inner Magic Circle, he claims this is nothing compared to the level secrecy surrounding Indian street magic.  

"I was always taught magic secrets are secret but they’re kind of accessible - the door is shut but it’s not locked - whereas in India there’s no way you’re finding out a magic secret unless you’ve really earned it.”

He explains that in India, magic secrets are passed down through families whereas his own interest, ironically,  came about as if by magic: “It just came out of nowhere. We don’t really know what happened...”

However, that has not stopped the magician from forging a successful career, which was catapulted into the public eye when he appeared on Britain's Got Talent (BGT) in 2019.

“It changed my life in that it shifted the way that I was working a lot.

“I would be booked to perform at a corporate event or at somebody’s party and the guests hadn’t come specifically to watch my show, so every time I came on stage, I was on the back foot trying to establish who I was and what I did before I could begin.

“After I went on Britain’s Got Talent, suddenly, I could walk out on stage and people already knew a bit about who I was and what I was going to do and that’s a big difference. It means, instead of being the stranger at somebody else’s party all the time, I was the host of the party. It’s a nice feeling to have that kind of familiarity from an audience.”

 Ben Hart is getting back to simplicity in Jadoo. Image: Matt Crockett.
Ben Hart is getting back to simplicity in Jadoo. Image: Matt Crockett.

Since his breakthrough on BGT, Ben has gone on to write and perform solo shows, write books on the craft of magic and design magic tricks for the likes of Penn and Teller.

He was also brought on to consult on the magic used in the Hollywood blockbuster Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning.

“It was totally crazy; I got a phone call very early one morning saying can you come onto the set of Mission: Impossible and work with Tom Cruise on some magic," he recalls.

“It ended up being a longer project than I expected it to be. Magic became a bit of a backbone to the story because the movie is all about pick pocketing and trying to track down this key that appears and disappears.

"Because Tom Cruise and his team are so committed to doing stuff on camera and not using camera tricks, it meant we were doing the sleight of hand magic for real.

 “Which is funny because the whole time I kept saying to them you should just use camera tricks, clearly trying to talk myself out of the job” chuckled Ben.

However, although actor Tom Cruise was an ideal sorcerer’s apprentice, Ben is not convinced magic will be the next unconventional hobby the star takes up.

“Magic takes time and he’s very talented, but he also lives a movie star life where progress needs to be quick," he says.

 “He’s quite a brilliant personality with so much charisma but also so much dedication. It was fascinating to be around him.”

Surprisingly, despite being a multi-award winning magician, performing on national television, and rubbing shoulders with A-listers, it is still the audience’s reaction - one of the foundational elements of magic - that Ben loves the most.

 “It is beautiful to me that the audience will connect this feeling of astonishment and wonderment onto a secret that is so simple," he explains. "That’s the reason why I’ll never reveal my secrets: it would almost be disrespectful to their feeling of amazement if they knew how simple it all was.

“To me, that disparity, that divide between the simplicity of the secret and the complexity of the emotion is the thing that’s beautiful and I get to exist my whole life in that gap between the two, both pretending there’s something of value to protect but also knowing there’s nothing.”

:: Ben Hart: Jadoo is at The MAC on Wednesday November 8

:: themaclive.com