Edward Hilsum is the current Magic Circle Stage Magician of the Year. Obsessed with puzzles and making things from a very early age, Edward’s natural desire to understand how illusions work, led him to magic and a first-class degree in Psychology. Through his work with his production company Love Variety, he is fast establishing himself as a sought-after writer and theatrical director.
Photo Credit: Homer Liwag
Describe something that has recently amazed you and how it made you feel.
Seeing the football team I support – Leyton Orient – become top of the national league after an amazing start to the season; so far 13 games unbeaten. It feels like real magic!
How would you personally define wonder, awe and curiosity? And how do they relate to each other?
I would define wonder as a feeling of amazement and also the act of questioning something. You can experience wonder through anything that connects with you, such as a meaningful story or a piece of art, as well as by experiencing something new or impossible.
Awe is the feeling of appreciation of something that has evoked a sense of wonder.
Curiosity is wanting to know more about something. Experiencing wonder or awe often leads to curiosity, but equally, curiosity can lead to wonder.
What inspires you to be creative?
I have a natural desire to develop new ideas and I find creativity in all sorts of places: I enjoy reading, going to the theatre, practising sleight of hand… inspiration can come when you least expect it, so it’s important to always keep your eyes, ears and other senses open!
Do you have any ‘rituals’ or an environment that aids your creativity?
For me, a vital element in being creative is having someone else to create with. I find progress is made much quicker, and the results are better, when I have someone else helping me. Aside from always carrying a notebook – I much prefer the freedom of handwriting notes rather than making notes electronically, a habit I’ve gotten into is using post-it notes to write ideas down and cover the wall with in brainstorm sessions!
What do you love about magic?
I love the unique effect magic has on an audience. Evoking a sense of wonder in people is something I will never get bored of. I also love how universal magic is. It doesn’t matter how old you are, what background you have or what you believe in, magic has the power to take anyone to a place where, even if just for a moment, nothing is impossible.
What do you think hinders an audience from experiencing wonder when watching a magician?
To experience wonder, you must be taken on a journey to somewhere you haven’t been before or be allowed to see something familiar in a new light. If anything takes an audience out of the moment or draws their attention away from the story or magic you’re creating, then that would make it more difficult to experience wonder.
Also, each individual’s own expectations, knowledge and curiosity will impact their ability to experience wonder. For example, it will be harder to evoke a sense of wonder in someone who knows many secrets of magic and has high expectations of what a magician is about to do, when compared to a curious child seeing a magician for the first time.
Where do you think our sense of wonder comes from and what can we do to cultivate it?
As children, we’re constantly experiencing new things. I think being curious about these, which most people naturally are, leads to a sense of wonder. Perhaps sharing new, amazing things with someone can cultivate their sense of wonder.
One of the things that strikes me in your performances is the thought, care and sheer amount of practise that goes into a show. Most magicians of your age will be performing quick throwaway tricks. What makes you different?
I’m not sure what makes me different as that’s how I’ve always been! I simply want to perform the strongest magic I can. I also like the idea of performing magic that an audience rarely gets to see or even better, creating something brand new. This normally involves more work than performing throwaway tricks, however the effect a piece of magic has on an audience is the most important thing for me, so I don’t mind how much work goes into something if I can see it will result in the audience experiencing something special. That applies to every aspect of a show, such as practising a particular move, making props, transporting equipment, editing music and most critically, continuing to review and improve a piece once I’ve started performing it.
I love seeing you perform your Silver coin routine, it’s eye popping magic but the real highlight is having the spectator on stage with you as witness. The audience appreciates the magic through the spectator’s eyes. Tell me how this came about?
Thank you very much! The goal was to recreate the feeling I had experiencing magic for the first time – that sense of wonder. The story for Silver came first. I felt that the image of a magician pulling a coin out of your ear is one that resonates with people, so I combined this with my earliest memory of seeing real magic to create the story for the routine.
Then I fell in love with a piece of music and thought it fit perfectly with this story. The magic itself was the final piece of the puzzle. It evolved from thinking what would it really look like if I could actually make coins materialise and disappear in my hands. I created the magic and moments to fit the phrasing of the music.
As you’ve described, one person joins me to experience the magic up close and that’s a really important part of the piece, as the audience appreciates the magic through the eyes of this person. I’m really proud of Silver because although in terms of scale it’s one of the smallest effects I perform, I’ve found that it can have the power to really connect with people and evoke that sense of wonder which was my goal from the beginning.
What would be your dream magic trick to perform and why?
I don’t have a single dream effect. I enjoy creating magic with a narrative that connects with an audience, so right now, that is my focus. I’m currently looking at some classics of magic and thinking about new ways to present them so that the magic can resonate as much as possible with a modern audience.