Review: Jadoo

Ben Hart's new magic show is utterly captivating

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In 2007, aged 16, Ben Hart was awarded Young Magician of the Year by prestigious society The Magic Circle. He later made his name on television, starting in BBC Three’s Killer Magic in 2014 and reaching the finals of Britain’s Got Talent in 2019.

He has also spent the last 10 years performing his work on the stage. His latest show, Jadoo, takes inspiration from his Indian heritage – particularly a form of Indian street magic performed by practitioners called jadoo-wallahs.

As he told Big Issue North, his aim with the show is to “cultivate an environment” where his audience can, as Hilary Mantel had it, “experience an event as magical”. In this, he absolutely succeeds.

Jadoo comprises several kinds of magic, from sleight of hand tricks, like seemingly conjuring playing cards from thin air, to conjuring, such as apparently making sand turn to coins totalling the exact value selected by adding random numbers written down my members of the audience. The astonished expressions on the faces of the audience members he selects to assist him in performing these tricks is genuinely delightful to witness.

Many of Hart’s tricks are small in scale, which could run the risk of lessening the impact for people sitting further away from the stage. Indeed, at a couple of key points, he walks around the room to show audience members the effect up close. But while critics like Jamy Ian Swiss have argued that magic can never be as effective on television as it is live, Hart makes full – and incredible – use of the technology at his disposal.

Certainly, the live format is key to the impact of the show, especially one based on street magic – there is a palpable atmosphere created by being in a room full of people sharing amazement. But by setting up a camera that transmits a live image to two large television screens, Hart also ensures that everyone in the room can see the intricacies of his illusions.

In such instances, rather than creating suspicion of camera tricks, it reassures the audiences that props (and, in one genuinely unbelievable moment, Hart’s head) have not been tampered with, to breathtaking effect.

The show contains some classic illusions, like the needle-in-arm trick created by Bruce Spangler and popularised by Harry Anderson. But even if you know how the trick is done – and it is one whose mechanics are relatively easy to learn, should you wish to do so – Hart’s performance is astonishing. When he holds his arm up to the camera, it is utterly seamless.

For those who do know the secret, it also serves as a synecdoche of what Hart does so well. He prefaces the trick by noting that when the magician’s box is removed from the equation, it becomes difficult to distinguish magic and reality, and the misdirection relies on the audience having a basic grasp on medical science. It is our knowledge, not our ignorance, that fools us.

Hart clearly delights in tricking his audience, but there is no malice here – he invites full engagement. As he promised in his Big Issue North interview, he “will make you joyfully come to the wrong conclusions for the right reasons.”

Jadoo is touring the UK, including dates in Lytham St Annes, Burnley and Hull, until 25 November. More information and tickets are available at

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