Illusionist Cosentino is back on tour

MAGIC: Costentino's life changed when he found an encyclopedia of magic. Photo: Cosentino Deception Tour.
MAGIC: Costentino's life changed when he found an encyclopedia of magic. Photo: Cosentino Deception Tour.

When illusionist Cosentino was launched into the stratosphere of stardom after appearing on Australia's Got Talent in 2011, he couldn't help but reflect on how proud the little boy who barely spoke a word at school would be of him today.

As he prepared for the Western Australian leg of his tour, which includes the Mandurah Performing Arts Centre, Cosentino sat down with the Mail to talk about his journey, thus far.

Born and raised in Melbourne, Cosentino's early life saw him falling into magic, "almost by accident".

"When I was a kid I was really shy and I had quite a few learning difficulties - I didn't learn how to read until I was 12," he said.

He explained that his mother was a school principal, who desperately wanted to see him engage with literature.

"One day my mother took me to the library, which, as you can imagine, is the last place a kid who doesn't read wants to be," he laughed.

"So I was looking at all of the books with pictures, which is when I spotted this book covered with old, hand-illustrated pictures of magicians called the Encyclopedia of Magic."

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When Cosentino's mother saw him with the book, she was elated - she began reading the book to him every night.

"We read stories all about these famous magicians and all of the adventures they had - and this was the book which taught me to read."

Cosentino's first foray into slight of hand was a coin trick he found in the back of the magic book, called 'the French drop', which he performed for his father.

"I sat my dad, the structural engineer, down to perform this trick - and he was caught off guard - he didn't know how I did it.

"For a shy, 12-year-old kid who sees his dad as a complete genius, being asked, 'how did you do that?' was so powerful."

At 13, Cosentino discovered escapism, after reading about the adventures of escape artist Harry Houdini.

"I started studying with a locksmith," he said. "Then one day, my mother and I got locked out of the house, and she said as a joke 'well, since you know how to pick locks' - and I thought she was serious, so I started trying to pick the lock.

"Then I heard that beautiful clicking sound that all escapists will know, and managed to open the door."

His mother laughed that this skill "could go one of two ways".

"I took the escape artist route."

In 2010, on the 100th anniversary of Harry Houdini's death-defying jump off of Queen's Bridge in Melbourne, Cosentino decided to pay homage with a trick of his own.

"I asked myself, if Harry Houdini was still around, what would he do?"

After discovering that the Melbourne Aquarium was adjacent to where Queen's Bridge was, Cosentino approached staff and asked if he would be able to perform and practice a trick there.

"At first I think they were a little confused," he said. "They were like 'what are you getting out of this?' but they let me use the aquarium."

Every Friday morning for six months, he would train at the aquarium, holding his breath and walking along the bottom of the enclosure.

"As a kid I used to see how long I could hold my breath for, but there is a huge difference between holding your breath sitting on the couch, and holding your breath while walking under water with weight attached to your feet.

"So I started researching free-divers and breath-holding and started teaching myself."

On January 17, 2010 - exactly 100 years since Houdini's underwater escape, Cosentino lowered himself almost five metres down into the water shackled to a 60kg concrete block, surrounded by ocean wildlife.

He managed to complete the escape using just a lock pick in under four minutes; and the next year he appeared on Australia's Got Talent, where he became a household name, and would eventually place second.

His new Deception Tour sees him return to Mandurah in Western Australia after more than a decade.

"I performed in Mandurah back in 2008, before anyone knew who I was - I used to tour regionally and put on my own theatre shows," he said.

"That was my uni, that was my education. For 15 years prior to appearing on Australia's Got Talent I was doing what I call 'the grind', working at my craft. It was a slow burn, and I love what I do."

During COVID lockdowns, Cosentino said he had to do a "creative pivot".

"It was tough, but we pivoted. We went online - I started teaching some online zoom classes for schools and even some big corporate companies.

"I had to learn how to livestream. I made a YouTube channel and learnt how to edit. It was a creative shift."

The lockdown also provided Cosentino with time to devote extra energy into developing tricks for his tour.

"I had the opportunity and time to devote attention to detail that sometimes I can't get. I got to create new effects and illusions in my little laboratory."

Cosentino said his upcoming tour involves four main elements, "grand illusions, comedy, slight of hand, and death defying tricks" combined.

"It's like a good film - there are beautiful costumes, storytelling, special effects - it will be an edgy and unique experience that the whole family will be able to enjoy.

"All the elements make the appeal broad, even people who don't necessarily like magic shows will be able to enjoy it."

  • Click here for all the dates of Cosentino's Deception Tour.
This story 'If he was still here, what would Houdini do today?' asks illusionist Cosentino first appeared on Mandurah Mail.