IT’S all done with smoke and mirrors - that’s what they used to say. For generations, audiences were held transfixed as stage magicians made the impossible appear to happen.
From variety halls to television and now the internet, illusionists continue to amaze and astound.
Common sense insists there’s no such thing as magic, but in our heart of hearts we’d all like to believe... just maybe. It’s all harmless escapism after all.
Steven Frayne’s love of magic started as a kid. It allowed him to escape bullies - his grandad taught him how to make himself appear heavier than he was to stop other kids throwing him around.
Today, the slightly built Frayne is better known as Dynamo, the TV magician who has walked on water, levitated above The Shard and toddled down the LA Times building.
Ahead of his Playhouse shows, which start tonight, the 32-year-old reveals that magic still affords him a form of escape, from a medical condition he lives with every day of his life, Crohn’s, an inflammatory bowel disease.
“I can’t eat on show days,” he says. “Well, I can have breakfast, but from 12 o’clock until I get off stage at 10pm I don’t eat.
“Because of the Crohn’s, eating one thing would put me on the toilet and in pain for three hours.”
“I don’t want to risk getting stomach cramps or anything that means I’m not able to get on stage on time.
“People have paid money to see the show. Some have waited a year to see it, so I have to give them the performance of a lifetime.”
When the lights come up and Frayne steps from the wings, however, the adrenalin rush obliterates any discomfort the star may be experiencing, for a couple of hours at least.
“When I am performing, I don’t feel any pain,” he confirms, “the adrenalin just takes over.”
That in itself proved a problem on the opening night of the tour back in October, when doing a particularly strenuous illusion left the illusionist with a damaged back.
“I did something I’d done in rehearsal 50 times a day for weeks, but was so hyped and buzzing from the crowd that I went that bit extra. I heard this crack in my back, but didn’t feel any pain.
“Later, I woke at 5am needing the toilet but could not get out of bed. I physically couldn’t move.
“I had to phone my manager who, with my wife, carried me to hospital.”
Thankfully, physio sessions soon had him back to full fitness.
For those unfamiliar with the magician, Frayne first hit TV screens as Dynamo three years ago.
Since then he has quickly established himself as one of the world’s most loved magicians - his series now airs in more than 180 countries worldwide.
A member of the Inner Magic Circle with Gold Star, a position only held by 300 magicians worldwide, his influences are eclectic.
“My biggest hero in magic was my grandpa, he got me into it,” he says. “But the people I take inspiration from are the likes of David Berglas; before Paul Daniels he was the man.
“He would get 20 million viewers on black and white television back when there were just two or three channels.
“He was gracious enough to give me permission to recreate some of his ideas for my TV show, things you would never otherwise have seen, so he has to be up there.
“Then, obviously, there’s David Copperfield. He is a legend, probably the most famous living magician, but for me, one of the most magical performers there has ever been was Michael Jackson.
“When I created this show I wanted a magic show that was also an entertainment show, the sort of show Michael Jackson would have done if he had done magic.
“I wanted to have his showmanship in there... while still keeping it Yorkshire, because I’m not a natural stage performer,” he laughs.
“I didn’t go to stage school and am not all jazz hands and stuff but I still wanted it to have that kind of scale, to ensure people get value for money and more.”
Finding out just what the show entails isn’t easy.
“It’s really hard to talk about it without giving away spoilers,” he says, “but I’ve tried to incorporate a few of the bigger things for which I am known.
“There are parts of the show where every member of the audience is involved in the magic at the same time. It wouldn’t work without everybody.
“There’s parts where I am in the audience, parts where half the audience are on stage with me, it’s definitely an experience rather than just a show. It relies on that participation and no two nights are ever the same.”
Amazingly, six weeks before the tour opened, Frayne had never stepped foot on a stage.
“We built a stage in a warehouse in London and I performed the show to an empty room for weeks, imaging there were people there with me,” he reveals, adding “and I found I enjoyed getting back to performing without having to be aware of a camera all the time.”
Even with the discomfort he can experience leading up to a performance, one thing above all else keeps Frayne motivated.
“I still get a thrill. Every time. That’s why I keep doing it. The reactions are incredible. I get the same buzz you guys get from the magic, from watching the reactions of the people I get up on stage. Every reaction is unique and you never know what is going to happen.”
Dynamo Live Tour 2015, The Playhouse, Greenside Place, today-Saturday, 8pm, £23.40-£103.90, 0844-871 3014