WITH the Melbourne Magic Festival kicking off next week, Rebecca Di Nuzzo catches up with award winning Melbourne based illusionist Simon Coronel about how he got his start in the world of magic.
Now running in its sixth incarnation, this year’s Melbourne Magic Festival will feature 175 performances across 40 shows across the 13 days. From July 1 to 13, visitors will be dazzled by all sorts of illusions and visual trickery that’ll surely delight spectators from young to old.
Among the many performers and special guests making their appearance at the sixth Melbourne Magic Festival is illusionist Simon Coronel, who took time off to discuss with us his craft, his passion for live special effects and how he came to be an illusionist.
What originally got you interested in magic?
Magic did not especially appeal to me as a child. It wasn’t until I was 18 and in my first year at Melbourne University that I really became interested. At an open day where all of the student clubs and societies were set up trying to attract new members, the stand for the magic club really caught my eye. I found the tricks they were performing amazing, even simple little card illusions.
Watching the students perform the illusions so skilfully and intelligently really drew me in. It looked so real. After that I was hooked.
How do people usually respond when you tell them you’re an illusionist?
I don’t introduce myself as a magician. I think calling what I do ‘magic’ really discredits the skill and hard work that goes into the performance.
I describe myself as an illusionist and refer to what I do as ‘live special effects’. Some people are impressed and love being amazed by what I do, while others seem to experience this weird power dynamic. It’s like they expect I’m trying to trick them with what I’m doing, or pull the wool over their eyes.
But I’m almost a pathologically honest person; that’s why I don’t call it magic or try to convince people what I’m doing is real. Making something unreal look real takes a lot of practice and hard work, and I like to impress and entertain people with that skill.
According to your website, you’re also a business consultant. How do you balance being both an illusionist and a business consultant?
I am no longer a business consultant but I was working at a large consulting firm for five years while performing on the side. It was pretty hectic, and eventually I decided to give up the consulting job to pursue a career as an illusionist.
Live special effects were and still are my passion. It’s taken a lot of hard work to get to where I am, but it’s something I really enjoy and that people enjoy watching me do. I’m always developing new skills and working on new illusions.
I’m also a qualified software engineer and studied psychology at university. I’m lucky that those things actually help me as an illusionist. The psychology background helps with the performances while the software engineering aids the business side of things so that I can manage my own website. I also do a bit of videography and help out backstage at events sometimes.
What kind of training does one need to become an illusionist? Are there any professional schools out there?
For me it came down to being obsessed and captivated enough to pursue it and teach myself the skills. It takes a lot of trial and error but it’s something I love doing.
Ninety-nine per cent of people who do this kind of thing are self-taught. There are very few places that offer formal education to be an illusionist.
For me it came down to being obsessed and captivated enough to pursue it and teach myself the skills. It takes a lot of trial and error but it’s something I love doing. It’s always a challenge to learn new things.
For anyone interested in getting involved in illusions and live special effects, I’d suggest coming along to the Melbourne Magic Festival. It will showcase a lot of different types of skills and shows, as well as provide the opportunity to meet different performers from around Australia and overseas.
What is your favourite thing about your job?
I love hacking away at a problem or an illusion and trying to work out how it’s done. Being able to then perform an illusion in a way that looks real and leaves people wondering how I’ve done it is something I really enjoy.
Do illusionists share secrets or are they closely guarded secrets?
It’s a very open and sharing art form, probably more so than you’d think. People do share tips and skills, and there’s a huge industry out there exposing how things are done.
Usually if your trained and fairly skilled you can analyse an illusion and work out how someone has performed an illusion. But that being said, I do have some of my own illusions that I’ve developed myself and they’re like my babies. I’ll probably share them with someone some day, but for now I like to keep them to myself.
I can say from experience though that knowing the methodology behind the trick can be disappointing. The illusion is almost always more compelling than the way it’s done.
What can we expect to see at the Melbourne Magic festival this year?
The festival is a collection of approximately 40 different shows performed by illusionists mostly from Australia, but also one performer from abroad.
The festival runs over two weeks and will have something for everyone. There are performances catering for children, while others are aimed more at adults. There are silly and comedic shows as well as some darker, more serious ones. Really there is something for everyone.
My shows are aimed more towards an adult crowd. My performance is called Moments, and will take place in Studio 3 from 9.30 to 10.20pm, July 2 to 6 and July 9 to 13. Tickets are available at Melbourne Magic Festival’s website where prices start from $20 for adults, $15 for concession and $50 for a family pass.
The show is something that I’ve worked hard at and spent a lot of time on. I’m really looking forward to performing it and showcasing new illusions I’ve developed.