IT all seems incredibly dangerous. In one of magician Sean Heydon’s stage tricks, he struggles his way out of a straitjacket, while suspended upside down.
Meanwhile, electric knives gnaw away at the ropes holding him up and steak knives wait below him to add an extra element of apparent danger to the act . . .as if it were needed.
The act – known as the “rickety tower of death” is one that Sean performed as part of the audition process to be accepted into the prestigious Magic Circle, a society whose members include some of the most esteemed performers in the world.
The 26-year-old Northamptonshire magician and comedian, who lives in Naseby, said this physically exhausting act took two years to develop and practise, earning him a few cuts and bruises along the way.
But the father-of-two is fast becoming one of the rising stars of the magic world.
Last year he performed as part of TV’s Paul O’Grady Show and he has become a regular on several BBC radio stations, including Radio Northampton, for which he demonstrates mind reading techniques.
Most recently, he won a place as one of the last four in the semi-final of industry X Factor-style competition The Next Big Thing.
The final will be held later this year and the winner will receive £1,000 and a year-long contract with entertainment agency Sternberg Clarke.
But how did his interest in magic come about? For Sean, it goes back a long way.
He said: “I got into it at primary school as a hobby and then I had it as a hobby for years, it was something to do for a bit of fun.”
At the age of 18, Sean decided to use his magic by performing in Northampton restaurants, to raise money to fund a trip to Brazil where he was set to help out in an orphanage building project.
The exercise also taught him that it was possible to make money from practising magic.
He now travels the world performing his comedy and magic shows, appearing in everything from corporate events to cruise ships.
He said: “I’m billing myself as the alternative magician. It is more stand-up comedy. The performances are like a stand up comedian routines, but then I might make an ice cream van appear.”
He continued: “I really want to build up my stage show, as a performer your ambition is to make your show bigger and better.”
Magic is believed to date back as far as the time of ancient Greece and, as time as gone on, people’s perception of the art has changed.
In the past, everything from weather phenomena to fire has been attributed to magic but, in the 21st century and an age of science, the general perception of magic is very different.
During the 20th century, magic was popularised through variety shows – such as those featuring Paul Daniels – but for a time it seems the popularity of “variety” as entertainment faded away.
Sean explained: “When many of the working men’s clubs, variety halls and music halls shut down, there was no demand for stage acts apart from singers and there was nowhere for speciality acts to perform.
“They had to go to work on cruise ships and the guys on the cruise ships kept their work so it became more competitive.”
But, whether or not it is anything to do with shows such as Britain’s Got Talent, the appeal of “variety” seems to be on the increase.
Yet, when it comes to modern audiences, people now know that magic is all about a combination of stealth of hand, dexterity and distraction, rather than the mystical powers of the gods.
Sean said that the audiences from different countries still respond to magic in different ways, depending on how used they are to this style of entertainment.
While American audiences today still know how to respond to variety, it seems that English audiences can be tougher to win over.
He said: “If you go to America, you kind of know you will have a standing ovation at the end of every show, it is normal.”
To find out more about Sean, log onto www.alternativemagic.com