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Barry and Stuart tell Rosy Moorhead why they are ready to reveal the magicians' secrets
As job descriptions go ‘twisted warlock’ is pretty cool. ‘Magician’ or ‘illusionist’ sound positively tame in comparison and there’s definitely nothing tame about BAFTA-nominated Scottish magic duo Barry and Stuart, stars of BBC1’s The Magicians, who are bringing to Hayes their distinctive brand of astonishing, gruesome and brilliantly funny trickery in Show and Tell.
“The first half is a comedy magic show filled with our favourite tricks,” explains Stuart MacLeod (the smaller one), “and in the second half we’re going to tell you exactly how we do it.”
Hang on, isn’t that exactly what magicians are not supposed to do?
“Yes, magicians are told right from the very start not to reveal their tricks,” Stuart laughs, “so some other magicians aren’t very happy about it! But it’s always felt like there’s been this barrier between us and the audience, and now we’re tearing down the walls.”
“Nobody’s ever done this before,” adds Barry Jones. “We’ve always felt that our best stories are about our tricks going wrong but we couldn’t tell anyone! Here, you really get to see who we are and how we work.”
The show started life at last year’s Edinburgh Festival, when it took the form of two separate shows, and got a great response. On the night you’ll learn how to read someone’s mind over Twitter, a trick using Facebook and ‘how to become a messiah’.
Barry, 30, and Stuart, 31, who now live in Barnet, met in their early teens at a ‘really geeky’ magic club in their native Aberdeenshire. They performed shows throughout their teens individually and when they got together started making videos featuring short stories that featured magic as part of the plot. One of these was picked up by Channel 4 when the boys were just out of university and led to their first TV series, Magick.
Their interest has always been in the darker, edgier side of comedy and magic. “We used to read books about the gorier and more extreme tricks, escaping death and cutting off limbs,” remembers Stuart. Which is where illusions such as the particularly grisly Suicide in C Sharp (be warned – you will feel queasy) and the one where Barry forces himself through Stuart’s stomach to retrieve a wallet come from.
This is perhaps what has contributed to magic becoming rather cool again.
The Magicians is the first live magic programme to be screened on the BBC in something like 30 years and more are popping up all the time, while the internet is full of home-made videos and comments from youngsters wanting to know how to perform tricks.
But not everyone’s so keen on magic, it seems. “We always used to get our families and friends asking us to do magic tricks when we started,” says Barry, “but they’ve all had enough of it now!”
Barry and Stuart: Show and Tell is at the Beck Theatre, Grange Road, Hayes on Friday, May 25 at 7.30pm. Most definitely not suitable for the under-12s. Details: 020 8561 8371, www.becktheatre.org.uk