At the Bafta television awards in May I noticed the illusionist and magician, Dynamo, on his own, looking a bit lost. He’s so slight and tiny it was tempting to ask if he’d become separated from his mummy and daddy, but that would have been patronising, of course.
Instead I introduced myself as an admirer and wished him luck (his show, Dynamo: Magician Impossible, was nominated for best entertainment programme, though it lost to The Graham Norton Show). Only a few weeks before, Dynamo (or Steven Frayne) had entranced me and my fellow TV writers in the Broadcasting Press Guild at our annual awards dinner. (He won one of our awards, because we know what we are talking about.) He played a quick trick on us all that to this day I’m still trying to work out. It was a sleight of hand involving our actual hands. Admittedly it wasn’t on the scale of Dynamo’s big set pieces, like walking on the Thames and levitating by a London bus, but hey, we’re journalists, we’ll take anything we can get.
Anyway, Dynamo (who’s 5ft 8in and must be all of about eight stones) and I had a brief pre-Bafta chat in which he said he couldn’t quite understand what he was doing at such a starry, glittery event. Now, I’m used to false modesty from showbizzy people and actors (“It’s nothing to do with me, it’s all in the script”), but I could tell he actually meant it. You can see from his programmes – a new series of Dynamo: Magician Impossible starts on Watch on Thursday – that he’s the most unassuming of men, pootling around rough bits of New York staggering onlookers into baffled silences then howls of incredulity as he performs tricks that defy gravity, the laws of nature and even life as we know it. Laces tie themselves! The hands on a watch in a magazine ad move before our eyes!
I can’t bear shiny, spangly entertainment shows, probably I was scarred for life by watching Seaside Special as a child, and frilly-shirted, self-aggrandising magicians have always made my palms sweat. But Dynamo is different. He has none of US illusionist David Blaine’s grandiosity or pomposity. I love him, he’s a guerrilla showman with a soft Yorkshire accent, a downbeat genius whose tricks of misdirection and sleights of hand can be powerfully moving in ways I can’t explain to myself or anyone else. There’s a fabulous sequence in this week’s Magician Impossible where he does something amazing involving hundreds of people in Times Square. I won’t say any more but I had a tear in my eye seeing all these people, only days after the devastation of Hurricane Sandy last October, shouting with delighted disbelief, in a kind of fellowship of joy. What he does shouldn’t be possible. It can’t be possible.
Of course it’s probably all done with misdirection and mirrors, but really, I don’t want to know. Find any Dynamo story on the internet and you can bet that underneath there will be sour comments from joyless windbags claiming to know how he did it and how the rest of us are lame-brained saps for being taken in.
Well they can all shut up. Dynamo, in his own, quiet Bradford way, is about celebrating humanity and all our possibilities. Anyone with a heart and a conscience loves to be amazed and no one can do it quite like him.
Dynamo: Magician Impossible starts tonight at 9:00pm on Watch