I picked up my pack of cards with a pounding heart and visibly trembling hands. I gazed over the 4 pairs of eyes looking back at me and all moisture in my mouth suddenly evaporated. For the first time in my life, I genuinely struggled to speak…
Just under 10 years ago I’d stood in front of Simon Cowell and Piers Morgan, along with the other BGT judges and a 3000-strong audience without giving it a second thought; this time I was standing before just 4 people. There was no audience, no cameras and no chance it was going to be broadcast in front of millions of viewers; yet it’s safe to say I absolutely crumbled under the pressure of it. I feel like I should start at the beginning…
Objective Productions are a powerhouse when it comes to magic on television. If you’ve watched pretty much any magic show on TV in the last decade, the chances are that Objective were behind it. They produce the TV shows of everyone from Derren Brown to Stephen Mulhern… and I’d been invited to their London offices to audition in front of their head magic production team. This was ridiculously exciting.
They gave little detail, other than the fact that I should prepare to show them three different tricks. There was no real mention of who I’d be auditioning for or even what project they were looking to cast. Nevertheless, I packed my bag with a sense of exuberance and set off the following day.
About an hour into the journey, something changed. Entirely apropos of nothing, I felt a pit begin to open in my stomach. The enormity of the audition I was about to have suddenly dawned upon me. I could feel my hands start to sweat. My heart sank.
Naturally, I’m something of a confident person. I’m very used to performing, meeting celebrities and talking in front of audiences in a variety of enormously high-pressure situations - but when I walked into that audition room, there was a sovereignty about the people behind the table which just seemed to shake me. I struggled to do the tricks, my mouth dried up and I wrestled to catch my breath. There was a certain gaucheness about my whole domineer that was like nothing I’d ever experienced.
I could feel my pulse pounding in my temples, and I’m sure that just by looking at me they could feel it too. I took a sip of water; and was surprised my trembling hands were able to make it all the way to my lips without a spill. I didn’t know what to say to save myself. I didn’t know what I could do to try and recover. I felt helpless.
Looking back, I think, really, I just wasn’t ready. Although I’d had a huge amount of experience up to this point and was very used to performing in front of people, the Robbie Williams gig I’d been to a few weeks earlier had changed the direction I wanted to go in. It changed the magic I wanted to perform. It had forced me to raise my game and, frankly, cut the shite. Unfortunately, a change like that takes time, and I was still in the transition period.
Realistically, there is never an ideal time for anything, but I genuinely believe this audition had just come a bit too early in my personal development as a performer. I was still working out just who I was, and how I wanted to perform. This ‘limbo’ phase was not the time to be showcasing in front of some of the most influential people in television, and I knew it.
The people sat behind the table in front of me were magicians I’d admired for years - magicians whose work had changed the way magic was perceived by an entire generation… and I buckled under the pressure.
It wasn’t about becoming famous or getting a TV show; it was about trying to prove something to these 4 people. To anybody else this meeting wouldn’t have really mattered - it was just magic tricks, after all - but it really meant something to me. It would be confirmation I was on the right path. Approval that I was doing something right.
The truth is, I wasn’t going to write this. I blew the audition, and that’s not really the kind of thing you want to put ‘out there’. It’s a meeting I wanted to just sweep under the carpet. A meeting I wanted to imagine just never happened. But here’s the thing, I’m using these articles to document some of the key moments that have happened in my career so far, and as anyone in the entertainment industry will tell you, it’s not an easy ride. Not everything goes the way you want it to. Sometimes, you just have a bad day at the office, and it’s the worst feeling in the world.
It’s a horrible, crushing sensation when you know you’ve not achieved something you set out to; that you've embarrassed yourself in front of people you respect.
One of the four people sitting in the room was Andy Nyman - a man who has spent over 12 years co-writing Derren Brown’s TV and stage shows. As well as being a magician, Andy is also an actor and has written a brilliant book called ‘The Golden Rules of Acting’, offering some amazing advice for performers and anyone really within the creative field.
Somewhat depressed and comfort eating a piece of red velvet cake I bought from Euston Station on the train journey back up North, I pulled a dog-eared copy of Andy’s book out of my bag and leafed through it. I was struck by one of the pages. I read it again and again…
PHOTO OF QUOTE IN BOOK HERE
They say the highs are high and the lows are low in this industry. It’s a cliché, but it’s true. I was one of many who stood there that day, and I’m sure the four people I auditioned in front of don’t even remember it. But it’s moments like that, moments of utter self-loathing, that make you decide whether you really want it. You can either decide the pain of rejection is just too much and it would be better to settle for an easier job, or you can pick yourself up, learn from your mistakes and start all over again the next day.
As bad as it felt at the time, I genuinely believe that day has made me a better magician. It has made me a better performer. This isn’t an easy road, but there’s no doubt in my mind that it’s the right one.