Young magician conjures up perfect family viewing

Pete Firman
Pete Firman
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FOR Pete Firman, starring in the hit TV show, The Magicians, has not only made him a household name, it’s taken him back to his own childhood.

“I’ve had people coming up to me in the street saying how much they enjoy the show, which is lovely. I’m really proud of the impact it’s had because for me it’s perfect family viewing for a Saturday night. I used to watch Paul Daniels on the telly with my mum and dad years ago, so to be doing the same thing myself is brilliant,” he says.

“For the last 15 years or so, magic has been all about the street magic of people like David Blaine and there’s a whole generation that have never seen the big illusions and the kind of razzmatazz that you get on The Magicians, so it’s been great to be a part of that.”

As well as boosting Firman’s profile, his appearances on the BBC show won’t have harmed ticket sales for his Jiggery Pokery tour which arrives in Yorkshire this month, with performances in Barnsley, Leeds and Huddersfield. His shows are a mixture of magic and comedy and have been garnering praise from critics and punters alike.

Firman says his fascination with magic started when he was a youngster growing up in Middlesbrough. “I kept pestering my parents to get a magic set and eventually they got me one for Christmas and I used to make my family sit through three-hour magic marathons where I performed very trick in the box.”

By the time he was a teenager, he was an avid reader of magic books and had started doing card tricks in bars and restaurants in his hometown to earn some pocket money. But although he enjoyed being a magician he didn’t initially think he could make a career out of it. “I really wanted to be an actor and magic was just a hobby that gave me some extra cash.”

But after doing a theatre studies course at college in Scarborough he replied to an advert asking for people to take part in a TV magic show which changed his life. The show in question was Channel Five’s Monkey Magic and it gave Firman his first break. Since then he hasn’t looked back, establishing himself as one of the country’s leading magicians appearing on Derren Brown’s 3D Magic Spectacular on Channel 4 and the BBC’s Don’t Miss A Trick, as well as becoming a regular performer at the Edinburgh Festival.

Back on the road with his new tour, the affable magician is delighted to be playing historic venues like the City Varieties. “A lot of venues just look the same but I love playing places like the City Varieties because they have so much character. It’s amazing to think that Houdini played there because you start thinking ‘perhaps his sweat is still on the curtains’ and to be standing on the same spot where he might have performed his famous handcuffs act is a real thrill.”

Firman’s rise to prominence has coincided with magic coming back in fashion. “Perhaps the old magic shows had become a bit stuffy and it needed David Blaine to come along and spice things up. But magic has never really gone away, the way it’s presented has just changed. We live in a world where we know so much and little is left undiscovered, so to still be able to astonish people is nice.” It’s this ability to astound, he says, that is the secret of its enduring appeal. “Magic is really just lots of little plays, each trick is a story with a beginning, a middle and an end – it’s just a wonderful form of entertainment.”

Pete Firman plays The Civic, Barnsley, tonight, City Varieties, Leeds, March 11, and the Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield, March 27.