Making Magic Virtual
Ash Magic, magician and social media sensation, is leading a new style of interactive magic show where the audience can play with what happens on stage. David Spicer spoke to the 21-year-old, who has been practising his artform since the age of 11 and is leading a national tour of Metaverse of Magic.
As a teenager, Ash’s fame exploded on-line during his HSC exams. Now Ash Magic is sharing the stage with international artists and a new form of entertainment.
David Spicer: What does ‘Metaverse of Magic’ mean?
Ash Magic: In the real world, the Metaverse is a virtual world that is run by Artificial Intelligence, and it's on the internet. But in the show, we take those ideas of this virtual world and scale it up. My character, Lennox, is on a journey to become one of the best magicians in the world. To do that he has to go on this journey through the Metaverse of Magic, which will reveal different challenges and obstacles he'll have to overcome to achieve his dream.
David Spicer: What is an example of an obstacle he must overcome?
Ash Magic: There's this cube, which is a sort of portal and is a key to the Metaverse; like a big fluorescent Rubik's Cube. There's one trick in the show, which we've been practicing, where I take this cube, squeeze it and it explodes into this massive ball of fire, then I disappear into that ball in a flash and big puff of confetti.
David Spicer: Is the show still influenced by the great traditions of magic shows?
Ash Magic: Yes. To become a master magician, my character must master all the different tricks of classical magic. So, we'll be diving into different things like close-up card tricks, and some of the big stunts like shooting arrows across the stage and catching them, then bigger stage illusions like cutting people in half, and so it's cool to build in those big staples but also doing a unique twist on it and adding some of the cutting-edge technology.
David Spicer: So how do you make the show interactive?
Ash Magic: The audience get to interact using their smartphones as much as they want, so, it's sort of a tailored experience to each audience member. They get to choose how much they interact with the show. If you want a super elevated theatre experience you can play along and while Lennox is on stage, facing these different challenges and obstacles, you can face them as well in the audience and help Lennox overcome them through your phone.
David Spicer: Is the audience giving you instructions or voting for options?
Ash Magic: There's some voting, and there's different games and puzzles that may show up on the audience's phones. There's this cool element where we travel through a portal into the Metaverse, and each person gets it up on their phone, to enter the portal. The whole stage changes and they might be able to launch a fireball on stage.
David Spicer: Composer / actor Eddie Perfect is listed in the credits. How does he fit into the Metaverse production?
Ash Magic: He’s one of the writers, so he's been there for our workshops. That's a full circle moment, because when I was on Australia's Got Talent in 2016 he was one of the judges. I was just this tiny little boy trying to do card tricks on stage. I was nervous as hell doing the trick for Eddie Perfect, so it's cool to come back now, working on the same show.
David Spicer: You're not going to be sawing Eddie Perfect in half?
Ash Magic: Definitely not, much as I would love to.
David Spicer: How did you get into magic yourself?
Ash Magic: I started when I was 11 years old. I was with my mother in (Sydney’s) Pitt Street Mall when I saw this guy with a table set up. He had a big crowd of people around him, and just like any curious young boy, I squeezed my way through the crowd and got to the front. He was doing card tricks, and he showed me this trick which I still remember. It absolutely blew my mind. That night, I went home, searched for every trick I could find, learnt as much as I could, then kept practicing every day.
David Spicer: So how did your magic career take off?
Ash Magic: I started learning on YouTube and then one year later I set up a table in the exact same spot in Pitt Street. I busked with friends for a few years, then we met a magician (mentor) who became our director and producer. He invited us to open his shows to warm up the crowd. Then school became more serious through the HSC, and I started posting on TikTok in my spare time. During the big two weeks of final exams, the TikToks I was posting just started blowing up and getting millions and millions of views. I went from zero to a million followers just in that time span.
David Spicer: What were some of your most popular early TikTok videos about?
Ash Magic: Hypnosis. I do a lot of card tricks, magic tricks with McDonalds burgers and cups and straws and stuff.
David Spicer: And are you able to monetize that huge popularity on TikTok? Or is it just publicity for your business?
Ash Magic: Both. It's great publicity and helps you open doors and get auditions, but you also can monetize it through brand deals, like Bunnings will ask me to promote their new Christmas lighting range.
David Spicer: I enjoyed watching your instructional magic trick videos. Are you worried about giving away too many secrets?
Ash Magic: There's so many magicians saying that the art of magic is dying. I feel it's all about keeping it alive and inspiring new people to become magicians. When I was a kid and I was searching on YouTube trying to learn magic, that's really what sparked my interest. If it wasn't for those YouTube videos, I wouldn't be where I am today, doing this insane show.
David Spicer: So, where is the show going?
Ash Magic: It's starting in Australia. We're doing a tour through Sydney, Brisbane and Canberra, and then (there are discussions) about the West End, South America, Asia, the Middle East, all over the place, which is awesome.
JONES Theatrical Group presents
METAVERSE OF MAGIC
Starring Ash Hodgkinson aka Ash Magic, Charli Ashby, Hara Hiroki, Horret Wu, Jarred Fell and Sabine van Dieman.
Producer and Co-creator Suzanne Jones
Director and Co-creator Siobhan Ginty
Associate Director and Co-Creator Del Wynegar
Additional script by Eddie Perfect
Sydney Coliseum Theatre from 7 November 2023
Canberra Theatre Centre from 22 November 2023
QPAC Concert Hall from 4 January 2024