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The great escapologist
The great escapologist

Donning a straitjacket chained to a wall with padlocks inside a locked, padded cell with a ceiling of metal spikes held only by a thin burning rope, magician Cosentino assures us there are no illusions to his Crazy Cell act, or what he describes as "a straitjacket escape on steroids".

Considering his close call during the same act which luckily resulted in nothing worse than ripped trousers, one may start to wonder what attracts the 26-year-old to such danger.

"I like it because it's the same reason someone jumps out of a plane and pulls a parachute. There's the adrenaline and relief that comes with surviving and the fact that people tell me it can't be done," Cosentino says between rehearsals for Crazy Cell, which he will perform daily at the Perth Royal Show.

You may recall seeing pictures of this cross between Criss Angel, Harry Houdini and Justin Timberlake weighed down at the bottom of the Melbourne Aquarium this year. As a tribute to Houdini's stunt 100 years ago, in which he jumped off a Melbourne bridge complete with weight, shackles and padlocks, Cosentino turned the act up a notch. A lock got stuck and he was under water for an extra minute, his lungs reduced to only half their capacity at that depth. Things got a little dicey before he finally escaped.

"Things go wrong all the time but I guess that's what I like about it . . . I like the pain. It's a little psychotic," Cosentino admits.

The Melbourne-based illusionist says his work is based on traditional magic with a modern twist. The Crazy Cell act was also based on Houdini's upside-down straitjacket escape.

"I thought if Houdini was around today, what would he do? What would he do as a daily demonstration?" Cosentino says. "Also I look at it from an audience's perspective and say, 'What would I like to see? I would like to see some guy struggling and putting it on the line for his art'."

Cosentino says each act is practised tirelessly, the Melbourne Aquarium stunt taking about a year to perfect.

This rabid determination began when a shy 12-year-old borrowed a magic trick book from the school library. Learning his first magic trick - a sleight of hand number called the French drop - distinguished him from the other kids and gave him a sense of power.

Ever since, magic, escapology and illusion have been his life's obsessions. And though he enjoys pushing his body to the limits, the main key is the audience's reaction.

"I'm just inspired about doing things that move people," he says. "I don't really care how things work, I'm more about the reaction it provokes and magic is all about bringing wonderment to people. Even if it's only for a split second and for the most cynical person in the world, for that split second if you can just fool them and create that reaction and see that look upon their face. That is what it's all about for me.

"I'm always searching for the perfect illusion to give that wow factor. Some people take it as a negative like I'm trying to fool them. I'm not trying to do that at all. I'm just trying to bring you back to your childhood to some degree where everything was magical."

Cosentino performs daily at the Perth Royal Show, September 25 to October 2. For times go to perthroyalshow.com.au *

The West Australian

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