Could you first introduce yourself to the reader?
My name is Ben Hart and I’m a magician. When I’m not performing myself I also write, design, direct and invent magic for other magicians, TV and theatre. I have become a regular at the Edinburgh Fringe – this will be my 6th new show here and I’m delighted to be back.
Tell us about your show?
My new show is called “The Nutshell” and it’s a magic show that looks at the way small things in our lives can add up to something much larger. The show touches on fate, destiny, murder, madness, statistics and looks at how we can all be controlled… It features brand new magical inventions never seen onstage before and designed specifically for this show. It’s quite a surreal show…
Why do you want to perform at Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and is it different from other festivals?
The Edinburgh Fringe is the biggest, best and most demanding arts festival in the world. It’s the place to see exciting performers and follow how the industry is moving. For me, it’s an amazing place to catch up with performer friends and I’ve built quite a loyal audience over the years so I get a real thrill out of showing them new and unexpected things. Edinburgh is unique as a festival in its scale but also its inclusive nature which creates a really exciting atmosphere – I hate artistic elitism and I love the fact that anyone can bring a show to the festival fairly easily.
Do you ever feel any pressure to be a social commentator, or constantly update material to respond to events?
I wouldn’t describe it as external pressure, but I do feel within myself that magic should be making more of a statement about the world. All the other art forms are very responsive to the bigger picture but for some reason magic seems to be stuck in the past sometimes. I always try to say something about what’s on my mind during my shows. The challenge is to make a statement about the world without it being too preachy. My last show looked at the idea of belief and I was inspired by talk of fake news. My show this year has been very heavily inspired by some recent events in my life.
Equally, do you feel there has been a shift in public sentiment that has affected your work?
Magic has remained strangely static for centuries – people always want to be amazed. I have responded to our changing attitudes to entertainment by incorporating a live video camera and large screen into the show. This is really just me keeping up with technology – we owe it to our audience to use technology to make our shows as visible and dynamic as possible. I think that audiences that watch magic on TV are now very aware of the idea and presence of camera tricks or tactical editing, so I have worked on making my show feel like the total antithesis of that.
Describe the last year in 5 words or less?
Challenging, Busy, Creative, Defining, Magical
What advice would you give to someone who wants to take a show up to the fringe?
My advice is to visit the fringe to see if there are any gaps in the market and then to consider starting on the “Free Fringe” to try to build an audience. The most important thing is to really have a clear idea about what your “proposition” is for the audience. And be nice to staff in cafes! They are constantly being asked for show recommendations!
And what advice do you wish you’d been given when entering the industry?
My advice would be to always think carefully about who you take advice from. Not everyone’s opinion is right for every performer – it is knowing whose advice to accept that is the challenge. Although that may be terrible advice ;)
When and where can people see your show?
You can catch my show “The Nutshell” every day at the Gilded Balloon, Teviot Dining Room every day at 8.15pm.
And where can people find, follow and like you online?
I’m on twitter and Instagram as @itsbenhart and you can find me on Facebook too. My website is www.benhartmagic.com