Ben Hanlin must be a pretty confident guy. After being inspired by David Blaine in the late 90s, he taught himself magic tricks at the age of 14 in the back of classrooms and would show his skills to people at school before kicking off his career with a YouTube channel. In one of his earliest videos from 2010 he takes on a £50 bet that he can find and perform a trick to any celebrity within 48 hours – a feat that would take some serious confidence or at least heaps of bravado and (spoiler alert) he won the bet and performed to Fearne Cotton, who deemed him ‘excellent’.
However, that was six years ago and since then the Birmingham born magician’s confidence in his abilities has clearly skyrocketed, along with his career.
He’s come a long way from the ‘Magic Boy Finds’ videos on YouTube to fronting three series of his own incredibly well received TV show, Tricked, on ITV2; stepping into the role of radio presenter on Radio Birmingham’s afternoon slot; performing on the West End stage with The Illusionists; performing at ITV’s Live At The Palladium, which he did admit was ‘nerve wracking’ but gave him the biggest adrenaline rush afterwards and now he’s about to debut at the world’s largest arts event, The Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
Despite his impressive CV, you’d still understandably expect a performer to have some apprehensions about such an undertaking, but Ben laughs away questions about his nerves, declaring: “I’m not feeling nervous at the moment. I’m pretty confident with all the work in progress and other things I’ve been doing and all the magic seems to be working and the audience seems to be liking it so I’ve just got to put it all together now.”
He adds: “It’s great because I’m doing some stuff that I’ve been performing for over a decade which is great to finally put together in a show. I’m also doing some brand new material which I’ve been working on up to the last six months or so which I’m quite excited about and I’m just trying to create a magic show that I would really want to go and see. So it’s going to have some amazing magic to make you think ‘how the hell has he done that?’ And hopefully it’ll be a lot of fun.”
When talking about the festival, Ben notes that although there are plenty of magicians to choose from at the Fringe, he’s confident he can stand out: “There’s a few magicians there this year who are great, like your Colin Clouds and such, but I’m just trying to have a laugh and not take myself too seriously. I have tried to do a really good balance of comedy and magic and want people to walk out and think that was really fun and have a lot of laughs. A lot of the material in it will hopefully make you laugh and enjoy it, so that’s the plan.”
He adds: “I think us Brits in general are a quite pessimistic bunch, if I stood on stage trying to convince you I was doing miracle work or had special powers, I think most Brits wouldn’t quite believe that, and I’m honest in being just a guy from Birmingham, who has spent a lot of years learning this stuff and I’d like to show you what I’ve learnt and lets have some fun.”
Ben’s already proven himself as a brilliant TV magician and we know he can definitely perform well for celebrities, it actually seems to be his forte. He even admits Kim Kardashian is the celeb who made him the most nervous – he swallowed needles in front of her on a yacht in the South of France and she said he was ‘amazing’, although Kerry Katona did call him a ‘wanker’.
However, despite his ability to perform confidently to celebs the Fringe is a different beast with live audiences every night full of normal people out to have a good time, some of whom are more than likely to be annoying hecklers.
Surely, I think, this alone must be enough to make him nervous but no, he’s even got a game plan for heckling situations: “Very rarely do I get hecklers trying to interrupt me during something but if they do, I usually deal with it the same way a comedian would. I mean the goal is to get all of the audience on my side, so if somebody’s not on my side I usually try to figure out why that is quite quickly and try to fix that whether it be through a quick fire response or maybe getting that person involved in the next trick.”
Ben’s performing every day from 3-28 August but surprisingly, has no plans for a well deserved break after the show. He’s going straight into preparing for another project and is always planning ahead. He said: “At some point I’d like to go out on a full UK tour, so this coming to Edinburgh is kind of like a phase of that, so I’d like to look at that in the future. I think eventually I want to make some more TV shows.
“I’ve got a production company now and I’d like that company to make and be involved with creating a show, the goal is to try and help people deliver magic on all sorts of platforms, whether it be in theatres or other TV shows. So it’d be great to see that really flourish. Maybe one day if I get bored of magic, I’ll maybe look into acting or something like that.”
Given the success of his Tricked shows on ITV2, it’s likely there will be a few fans of the mischievous magician heading to see him live but at the moment he can’t give any info on the possibility of a series four and says that fans should ‘watch this space’.
Ben’s definitely feeling confident about the debut and after speaking to him, we are too. It looks set to fit his three word description of “funny, cheeky and mind-boggling” so even if you’re not an old school Magic Boy Finds fan, the show will still be well worth a watch.
Or even if you just fancy going along because you’re the type of person who needs to try and solve the tricks and feel smart, that’s fine you’ll be more than welcome. As Ben says: “That’s part of the magic, different people can enjoy it in different ways.”
Ben Hanlin is performing at the Pleasance Dome from 3-28 Aug, tickets start from £8.50 and are available to buy here.