They have left millions boggled with their graceful card acts, great escapes and audacious stunts. But can The Illusionists make magics fusty reputation vanish?
Our instinct when watching magicians is to focus on the hands, in the vain hope we may spot their secrets. But to really understand an acts style, look at the eyes. Take three of The Illusionists, the global magic supergroup that started in 2012 and has an ever-morphing lineup. South Koreas Yu Ho-jin, billed as the Manipulator, has the dreamy gaze of a lover, with the slightest raise of an eyebrow while he caresses his cards. Britains James More, the Showman, favours a frowning sideways glance, as if even he is perplexed by how he manages to escape from among other scenarios a rack of fiery daggers. And Frenchman Enzo the Unforgettable Weyne, whom we see stretching his hands through a steel wall, has eyes that flash with childlike wonder at his audacious stunts.
When I meet the three of them, before they start a London residency with four of the other Illusionists, they all remember putting on shows as children. Plenty of kids get a magic set for Christmas but Weynes didnt end up at the back of the toy cupboard. Instead, he realised: OK, its my future. At 11 he started to build his first stage illusion with his girlfriend. He wields an imaginary saw and laughs at the memory. Soon after leaving school he combined his interests in engineering and architecture to forge a full-time career in magic.
Growing up in South Korea, Yu Ho-jin didnt know that magic even existed until a friend showed him a trick. He assumed his friend had some sort of special powers and was disappointed when he was shown how it worked. Soon, he was creating his own.