This man can walk on water, transform a world champion boxer into a jelly-limbed weakling and – perhaps even more miraculously – he’s made magic cool again. Up and down the country, teenagers are shuffling playing cards and trying to turn pennies into pounds, all thanks to a young magician called Steven Frayne.
“David Haye says that I’m the only person he’s scared of,” grins 29 year-old Frayne, known as Dynamo. Seemingly he hypnotised the former world heavyweight champion into a helpless state. “I took away his strength. He was adamant that I gave it back before his fight!” His next trick? He strolled casually across the Thames.
Among the celebrities he’s bamboozled are Will Smith, Lindsay Lohan, Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand and Richard Branson. The latter after he made his watch disappear then reappear. “Afterwards he bowed down to me like a worshipper. I’ve got possibly the only picture on the planet of Richard Branson bowing down.”
Not bad for a boy from a Bradford council estate. So how did he get into magic? “By accident,” he explains. “I never wanted to be a performer, but I had a bit of trouble at school. Every day these two bullies would put me in a wheelie bin and throw me down a hill.”
One day 11-year-old Steven confessed his troubles to his grandfather, an ex-soldier who performed magic in bars after the war ended. He taught his grandson a trick to take away the bullies’ strength – the same one he employed so spectacularly on David Haye. It worked: the bullies scarpered and young Steven was entranced.
Scaring bullies wasn’t the only benefit. Dynamo suffers from Crohn’s disease, a bowel condition that can make eating highly uncomfortable and has required several operations. The best distraction is an audience: “I can shut it out when I’m performing – the adrenaline allows me to forget the pain.” Now he controls the disease by avoiding alcohol, following a strict diet and willpower – “It doesn’t stop me doing anything. I don’t let it.”
Although Dynamo salutes Paul Daniels as a “genius”, he’s keen to distance himself from his forebears. There isn’t a wand in sight and he plies his trade on the streets. “They’re performing the old type of magic – what I do is real. If I do something, what you see is what you get.”
So is he Britain’s answer to David Blaine? “Blaine is a massive success story, but my aim is to be the first Dynamo. In years to come, when people think of the word magic, I want them to think of me.”
All four episodes of Dynamo: Magician Impossible are on Thursday on Watch from 8.00pm
See Dynamo bamboozle RT staff at radiotimes.com/dynamo
This is an edited version of an article from the issue of Radio Times magazine published on 17 January