Cosentino brings Twisted Reality show to NZ
Most magicians' careers start when they see a particular trick or performer. Paul Cosentino's started when he finally bested his father.
Now going by just his last name, Cosentino is a world-famous magician.
His magic has seen him crowned runner-up on Australia's Got Talent in 2011, a Guinness World Record holder, and multi-award winning magician, including twice winning the Merlin Award, which is essentially the Oscars of the magic world.
He's bringing his new stage show, Twisted Reality, to New Zealand in August, as part of a world tour combining a mixture of escape, illusion and sleight-of-hand magic.
All this from someone who started his magic career in the school library.
Many magicians have a story in which they saw an amazing trick when they were4 years old and it sparked their love of magic.
Cosentino wasn't 4. He was 12.
He suffered from learning difficulties but one day – because his mum was the school principal – he found himself in the library, killing time in the puzzles section where the books had plenty of pictures.
It was about then he discovered a book filled with pictures of magical greats, from Houdini to the Great Dante.
"So then my mother sees that I'm playing around with this book. So she very quickly picks up on the fact that, 'My son's finally opened a book, lo and behold,'" Cosentino laughs.
"So we borrowed the book and she would read these great stories to me and at the front of the book they had magic tricks. So we started doing them, and by reading the words and then physically stopping and applying them, I began to read."
Note he doesn't say he started practising magic. His focus is on the learning – he even goes so far as to say magic was a "side effect" of that.
"It wasn't about seeing a trick or a cool magician, it was about building my confidence and learning," he says.
But magic went from being a side effect to a career option when Cosentino performed his first trick.
"I made a coin disappear for my father, who was a structural engineer. And in my world he was a genius, and he says to me 'how did you do it?' and I don't tell him. And I'm feeling really good about myself because I can do something my father can't," he says.
"So there's a transfer of power now. So I keep practising and I become obsessed and it starts to snowball, but its roots are in the fact that it allowed me to come out of my shell."
He now performs a mixture of sleight-of-hand (street) magic, escape magic and stage illusions.
While he says he likes street magic because it's organic, raw and "in your face", and he likes stage illusions because they allow for theatricality, fantasy and storytelling, the escapes – while often the crowd favourite – appeal because they are more personal.
"You set a goal for yourself, you train for six months – it's kind of like being an athlete, you're walking a very fine line between legitimate danger [and success]," he says.
"And things go wrong. I've ruptured my ear drums, I've been slashed by knives, I've broken ribs – these aren't things that you plan for but it's kind of exciting. I'm pushing my envelope."
The problem with that is there are limits.
The worst trick-gone-wrong Cosentino's dealt with saw him locked and chained in a perspex bubble and dropped 10 metres into water inside a concrete silo.
"The pressure is so much that, if you were to take an empty Coke can down with you you'd start to see it crush. So here I am with that pressure on my lungs, trying to move through the chains and I can't equalise, I'm moving too quickly and all of a sudden the pressure's building and I'm losing concentration because I'm feeling this excruciating pain in my head," he says.
"All of a sudden I hear this pop and... then it's like someone's just punched me in the ear. I got nauseous and disorientated and somehow, I get out and swim to the top and blood is pouring out of my ear."
He'd ruptured his ear drum.
The problem, he says, isn't so much to do with the actual injury itself, but more to do with the loss of control during the trick.
That didn't stop him from re-training and coming back a year later to give it another shot though.
The obvious question then is: are you insane?
To which he just laughs.
"It was an egotistical thing, I didn't want to be beaten by it."
Magic may have built his confidence, but Cosentino isn't about to let it take it away.
Cosentino will be bringing more death-defying escapes, illusions and street magic to New Zealand for two shows at Auckland's Civic Theatre on August 29, and a third show at Wellington's St James Theatre on September 2. See livenation.co.nz.