Renowned Australian magician Cosentino was once a shy kid who turned to magic as a way to boost his self-esteem. Now he’s the most famous illusionist in the country. He speaks to TRAVIS JOHNSON about the roots of his art.
Paul Cosentino – professionally, he just goes by his surname – came to magic almost by accident, being attracted to the aesthetics of the form before he started to practice the skills.
“Yes, that is true,” he tells us. “I was very shy and introverted, believe it or not, and I had a lot of learning difficulties – reading, spelling. writing. I stumbled across a magic book in the library – I was in the library supposed to do projects, but I borrowed this magic book because of the pictures in it – it had these old Vaudevillian-style posters and things like that. So, my mum being the principal, she picked up on that – she realised I was looking at the pictures, so she started reading the book to me. I didn’t really care about the magic tricks, to be perfectly honest, I cared about the pictures – these old pictures of Harry Houdini with handcuffs and chains and that. You’ve got to understand, these pictures were originally created in the 1900s to attract people to come to the show. I was like, ‘Oh wow, this is really cool!’”
From there he began to practice magic and sleight of hand, although he views the skills he began to develop as secondary to the main benefit, which was increasing his confidence and learning abilities. “I overcame huge stumbling blocks for me, which was reading, writing, spelling, and that increased my confidence, and there was a side effect, and the side effect was that I gained a skill, which was magic. But that wasn’t the intention – it wasn’t like I’d seen a magician on TV or live and gone, ‘Oh, that’s what I wanna do!’ It was just overcoming these issues. And what happens with magic is you get a whole set of different skills: you learn how to stand up in front of an audience, you learn how to break the ice, how to do the trick. So it kind of became, literally, my life from when I was 12.”
From there we climbed the ladder of success, doing shows at school and entering competitions. At the age of 17 he auditioned for Cirque de Soleil narrowly missing out on becoming an Artist Resource for them. His subsequent appearances on Australia’s Got Talent (he placed second) brought him wider recognition and, eventually, several TV specials of his own. Now he is benefiting from the current stage magic popularity resurgence – a trend he is, in fact, largely responsible for.
“I don’t want to sound conceited – I was the first Australian magician ever, in the history of Australian television, to have their own TV show. With that being said, I was the first Australian magician in about seven years to be on TV. So once my TV specials aired and they reach two million people, there was an influx of international magicians coming on Australian TV ,and that led to other shows, touring shows coming out. But if you actually look at the timeline ,it was all after I appeared on Australia’s Got Talent.”
Cosentino beings his Twisted Reality Tour to the Regal Theatre on Friday, May 1, and Saturday, May 2. Book through Ticketek.