There's a slew of magicians on YouTube nowadays, gathering views and fame primarily through street magic. You've seen them, we're sure. But as entertaining as they are, one can't help to wonder if the real tricks up their sleeves are visual effects, clever editing, or an awed audience in cahoots.
Then there's Cosentino. Hailed as the 'New David Copperfield', the Australian illusionist, first name Paul, had come in second on Australia’s Got Talent in 2011 on the back of death-teasing stunts and sleek dance moves. An unusual combination, but an effective one. And make no mistake about his 'magical prowess' — he joined the ranks of Copperfield, Criss Angel and Penn & Teller when he was awarded the coveted title of International Magician of the Year, the magic industry's equivalent to the Oscars.
Did we mention he also has a role in the upcoming Jackie Chan sci-fi flick Bleeding Steel, out in December? But you can catch him live right now - his Anything is Possible tour is at Marina Bay Sands from August 17 for 10 days.
We spoke to the lanky, long-haired magus on his inspirations, his thoughts on fellow master magicians, and his close brush with Jackie Chan.
8 DAYS: Dance is part of your act. Why dancing?
COSENTINO: It simply feels more natural to dance around the stage as opposed to walking from one location to another. It wasn't even a conscious decision. That's what makes part of my show very unique. I don't think there's any other dancing magician in the world.
Michael Jackson is a major influence on your shows.
I got inspired by MJ when I was 13 years old. He's the greatest entertainer ever. One of the greatest compliments is people likening my show, [because of the MJ-inspired dancing], to MJ making magic. As a kid, [singer-dancers like MJ] and Prince influenced me along with magicians like Houdini.
You had learning difficulties growing up and you didn’t read a book till you were 12. You said magic helped you overcome those problems.
As a boy I never saw magic on TV and had never even been to a live magic show. I just read stories about magicians in books. My mother also read to me how tricks are done in books. Soon I grew to like reading. It's about being engaged and being able to dive into a book. At the same time, learning magic gave me confidence, so it's like killing two birds with one stone.
You’ve done your fair share of dangerous stunts. Any close shaves?
I once did an underwater escape where I was chained and dropped 10m under water. It all went very wrong. I couldn't equalise [the pressure] properly and I ruptured my eardrums. After blood started flowing out, I got disorientated and nauseous and had to be rushed to the hospital. Another time was this stunt where I had 18 kitchen knives dangling above my head. I escaped but timed it wrong. So I was nicked and I got 12 stitches right across my chin. Every day there's bound to be bruises and cuts. It takes great physicality to do all these stunts.
What do you make of David Blaine and Criss Angel?
I love them both. David Blaine is a wonderful performer. Criss Angel I worked with in 2014. In fact, you'll see the water tank I designed in [Angel's] show.
What do you think sets you apart from them?
First of all, the dancing. Also, David Blaine is all close-up magic. My shows consist of close-up magic, stage magic, audience participation, and escapes. All in one show by one man! Also, it's who I am. It's the stories we tell through our personalities. Take singers for example. If you’ve ever watched Michael Bublé, he sings traditional songs, but he's a great entertainer — he's funny and charming. I would like to think I'm like that too.
You’ll be appearing in a Jackie Chan movie, Bleeding Steel. We hear you were cast after they saw your TV shows in China.
They were searching for an old kind of Chinese magician to be in the movie. After they met me, they rewrote the script to suit my style. The Jackie Chan Stunt Team came to my workshop and we designed some [sequences] Jackie Chan could be in! They realised my team and I had a lot to offer, and my part in the movie went from a non-speaking role to having all these lines!
What was Jackie Chan like in person?
He's very down to earth and professional. When it comes to work, he moves very quickly and fluidly with his team. Also, he doesn't edit the footage. He does it in one take. Hollywood should listen to him. My TV shows don't have many edits as well, which is good but also stupid, because it takes so much more time and money to film things so that they look organic.
What can we expect from your show, Anything is Possible, at Marina Bay Sands?
For this, we really brought in the best of the best. It's very different from other magic shows you've seen. If you love magic shows, you'll love my show. If you hate magic shows, even better! My show is so different with the dance, the lighting design, the pyrotechnics, and the death-defying escapes that I've created myself. Plus, there's mind-boggling illusions and audience participation. It's jam-packed! By the end of 90 minutes, I'm exhausted. I give my soul, I really do. Everyone should check it out!
Catch Cosentino: Anything Is Possible at Sands Theatre, Marina Bay Sands, from Aug 17-27. Tix from Sistic. Bleeding Steel opens in cinemas Dec 21.