Paul Daniels and Debbie McGee’s nephew is to audition with his own magic act on this year’s series of Britain’s Got Talent.
Twenty three year old James Phelan spoke to us in January, before the devastating news of his uncle’s death, and said he wouldn’t be where he was without their influence.
“I don’t think I’d be doing this without them,” Phelan said. “They’ve closed the Royal Variety, they’ve played it a few times and that plays a big part in me being here. There’s no other sort of inspiration I’ve taken. I’ve never really watched any other magicians.”
As for the types of tricks we’ll see from him, Phelan said he’s “very much” in the style of his late uncle.
“The trick almost doesn’t matter,” he explained. “It’s more a conversation and being on stage. The trick’s the excuse for you to be there, but then again, it’s not the be all and end all, you know?”
“I’ve got a video, a VHS of my uncle playing the palladium in about 1979, and it is him, the stage, a box and that’s it. I was always inspired by that – how can this one person fill this whole theatre?”
The young magician said he wasn’t so much tutored by his uncle, but rather “absorbed” the tricks of the trade from a young age.
“I’ve grown up with it, I never really decided one day I was going to do it. I’ve done it as long as I can remember really.
“I think there are a lot of similarities in terms of mannerisms and presentation style. Not necessarily the tricks. It’s one of those things that in my head, when I’m thinking ‘how do I do this?’ I can sort of subliminally hear what he would recommend to do.”
The budding magician has got a cheeky charm. He admitted that the trick he has planned for the Britain’s Got Talent judges could go very wrong. The long and short of it is that one of their phones may end up in a bucket of water.
And he’s not afraid to wind up other magicians either.
“The other day – this is horrendous, please don’t judge me – Dynamo has just released a magic set. So he was doing a signing at Harrods. The idea is you buy one of his magic sets and you queue up and meet him and you get him to sign it. So I queued up and I said, ‘Dynamo, do you mind signing my magic set?’ And he was like ‘Of course’, so I took out my Paul Daniels magic set. He found it funny. It could have gone one way or the other…”
Phelan admits it’s a “jump in the deep end” taking to the BGT stage in front of Simon Cowell et al. He did actually apply for the show ten years ago – “that went really well as I’m sure you’d imagine” – but has since been focusing on his studies. Aside from working as a magician in a club, he says he’s not been back on a stage in that time. But he’s confident his act will work in his favour on the show, as it reduces the amount of competition.
“If you apply for the X Factor, you’re basically competing with everyone doing the same thing. Whereas now, as long as I’m a good magician, it’s less sort of pressure on that front.”
He has a refreshingly honest take on following in his uncle’s footsteps too and coolly brushes off concerns it’ll be seen as “standing on the shoulders of giants”.
“I’d say they’re absolutely right. I feel mildly guilty about it, then again it’s what I’ve always wanted to do. I think they’re probably right to a certain degree. I don’t think you can get very successful from that. You can use it as a door opener. I try not to over do that. But as I said before, I wouldn’t be standing here if it wasn’t for them. They’re right but only to a certain degree. You still have to be a good magician to get anywhere with it.”
Britain’s Got Talent returns Saturday 9th April at 7:00pm on ITV