Award-winning magician Ben Hanlin is appearing in his first-ever one-man show at this month’s Edinburgh Fringe. The star of TV’s Tricked spoke to David Johns ahead of the first night
A lot has happened in Ben Hanlin’s life since we last interviewed him more than two-and-a-half years ago. For starters, he’s got married and moved house. He’s completed a further three series of his hit ITV show Tricked and picked up a clutch of awards for his mind-blowing illusion-creating along the way. And he’s also appeared in Live At The Palladium and in The Illusionists in the West End. This month sees a new exciting challenge for the 29-year-old Brummie as he launches his first-ever one-man show at the famous Edinburgh Fringe. Billed as ‘fresh and playful’ and cheekily-entitled Trickhead, it promises to make audiences ‘laugh out loud’ and leave ‘their minds totally boggled’. Sounds impressive! “It’s exactly the way you would do stand-up comedy. You start with a completely blank sheet of paper and begin writing ideas,” explained Ben. “I’ve had some warm-up gigs where I’ve been able to try some things out and work on them from there. I’ve spent the last six months getting everything ready and now I’m really excited to get going.” It might sound surprising that this is Ben’s first one-man show, afterall his career started out when he became an overnight sensation debuting his incredible tricks on YouTube. But so far his work has been mainly around Tricked, the prime-time hidden camera show where he has captured audiences with his – occasionally shocking – magic and boy next-door character.
Known for his unique pranks, Ben’s mischievous magic persuaded famous personalities to believe he had invented a time machine, convinced an actress to believe that she had seen a ghost and prompted a UK boy band to watch as one of their members fell off a cliff- top from a moving trailer. A ratings winner, Tricked was also named Best Entertainment Programme at the renowned Broadcast Digital Awards. “I love doing Tricked but the one-man show is something completely different and fresh,” said former Warwick School boy Ben. “I’ve had the opportunity to do Edinburgh Fringe a couple of times in the past but have had to pull out because I just couldn’t fit everything in. I want people to come to the show and see and experience some really magical moments but also to have a laugh at the same time too.”
The fusion of magic and comedy has always been what makes Ben the performer so different and successful. He’s able to produce astounding large-scale illusions or highly detailed close-up magic, all with his unique sense of humour. His one-man show bears all those traits – and even includes one trick based around a four-foot phone! If Trickhead proves to be a hit at the Fringe, it could be seen by wider audiences across the UK. “We’ll see how well it goes,” said Ben. “We could end up taking it around the UK or using bits of it towards something else, in some other way.” Ben’s love of magic started young when as a shy lad he used tricks as a way of approaching girls he liked at his school. When he left school however, he took up a career as a chartered surveyor before deciding to risk all and try his hand as a full-time magician. He played a host of local venues including Hampton Manor, Wroxhall Abbey and Nailcote Hall before bursting onto the national scene with Tricked, which he co-writes as well as stars in.
“I spend a lot of time in London, and since getting married have moved there, but I’m still very much a Birmingham boy – I will never lose that,” said Ben. “All my family are still there and I present my Saturday afternoon radio show each week on Capital Birmingham.” After his one-man shows Ben says he has “something else in the pipeline which will be very exciting”. Like all great illusionists, he’s keeping the exact details of how, what and when close to his chest for now. But he promises all will be revealed soon…