By Luke Voogt
ARTICLE WRITTEN PRIOR TO THE ANNOUNCEMENT OF VICTORIA’S SNAP LOCKDOWN. EVENT TO BE CANCELLED OR RESCHEDULED.
Cosentino’s magic might be a well-crafted illusion, but the risks in his death-defying stunts are very real.
“Sometimes when you keep pushing the limits – you add more locks, more chains, you stay underwater longer – things go wrong,” the 38-year-old told the Independent.
“I’ve ruptured my ear drums underwater, been slashed by knives, cracked two ribs, had a broken ankle…
“They’re calculated risks – but they’re very real. And, believe me, my insurance is very real too.”
The long-time magician and escapologist plans to take on those risks, in a stunt involving an axe and a water timer, in his first Geelong performance in a decade next fortnight.
Inside a straightjacket, bound in chains and locked to a chair, Cosentino must escape before a 30-inch axe blade makes its deadly descent.
“I’ve got to wriggle free from the straightjacket and pick all of the locks,” he explained.
“When the bucket fills with water and reaches a certain weight, it pulls the release pin and the axe drops. The concept is I’ve got to be out of the way before all that happens.”
Cosentino had a near-miss with the stunt during a show in Indonesia, to the horror and collective gasp of the live audience.
“My left ankle got caught in one of the leg irons and I had to fall out of the way,” he said.
Death-defying stunts are one the “four pillars” of Cosentino’s shows, along with illusion, close-up magic and audience immersion.
“If you’re thinking about it like a normal magic show, this is not that show,” he said.
“You’re not just sitting there watching the show, you’re immersed in it.
“There’s people appearing and disappearing, and people being sawn in half.
“One moment someone is floating across the stage, the next minute I’m seemingly reading your mind.”
Cosentino’s close-up magic gives the crowd a tantalising chance to scrutinise and unveil his tricks, while in other parts of the show audience members can get involved.
For some reason children always seem raise their hands first, according to Cosentino.
“They ask, ‘can you saw me in half?’ It’s such a strange question,” he said.
But of course Cosentino is all too happy to oblige.
Born Paul Cosentino, he was a child himself when he discovered magic.
He was unable to read due to learning difficulties, until he stumbled upon a magic book in the library.
“My mum was a school principal, and she would read the trick – that’s how I learnt to read and how I learnt magic.”
Cosentino still needs to focus intently on each word while reading, which pays off in magic, where attention to detail is king.
In 2010 Cosentino performed an underwater escape in tribute to childhood hero Harry Houdini’s world-famous stunt in the Yarra River a century earlier in 1910.
In 2011 his fame skyrocketed when he came runner-up on Australia’s Got Talent, which led to various reality TV gigs, his own TV specials and tours of Australia and Asia.
Just last weekend he sold out a 900-person theatre at Crown Casino for four consecutive shows, after performing and teaching online during COVID-19 lockdowns.
Surprisingly, “quite a few magicians flourished” during COVID-19, he said.
“With magic, it’s just so diverse, so a lot of it translates very well onscreen.
“Across a screen you can say, ‘think of a number’ or ‘think of a colour,’ and lo and behold, I predict it.”
But nothing compares to entrancing a live audience, which Cosentino looks forward to doing at Costa Hall on June 2.
“It’s very powerful in person,” he said.