Kevin McMahon swapped a life of science for magic

It wasn’t a card trick or a rabbit being pulled out of a hat that got Kevin McMahon interested in magic – it was a reality TV show.

‘Magic came at me from left-field – I wasn’t expecting it at all,’ explains the man who founded the Edinburgh International Magic Festival 10 years ago.

Kevin was working as a physicist at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh when he heard that Channel 4 was looking for a scientist to take part in its Faking It series. He applied and was chosen to undergo four weeks of intense training with magician Nigel Mead, with extra lessons from the legendary Penn and Teller in the United States.

At the end of his trip, Kevin convinced a panel of experts – including the late Paul Daniels – that he really was a magician and not just ‘faking it’.

Now, years later, Kevin has carved a niche for himself performing at parties, weddings and corporate functions for the likes of Porsche, Rocco Champagne and Royal Bank of Scotland.

‘I still like to use some of my science in my shows,’ explains Kevin. ‘I spent the first ten years of my working life as a scientist, learning about the laws of physics, and then I’ve spent the past ten years as a magician learning how to bend them. I don’t shy away from my science background – I embrace it.

‘I look at human perception and try to use that to my advantage, with sleight of hand and misdirection. Then I also use science in my presentations and special effects.’

The 2014 magic festival attracted 8,000 visitors, up from 1,500 just five years previously.

Kevin’s highlights included German performance artist Johan Lorbeer levitating in the Grassmarket, and sharing the stage with his mentor, Nigel Mead, for the festival’s sell-out gala show at the Lyceum.

His 2014 big engagement was the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, where he was treading the boards alongside comedian Gavin Oattes and mind-reader Colin McLeod, who perform together as ‘The Hams’, combining laughter and tricks in their shows.

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