Viv Hardwick discovers that Pete Firman is heading for a magical night in Middlesbrough.

COMEDY-magician Pete Firman can’t explain why it’s taken him nearly ten years to return to his home town of Middlesbrough and stage his first show since he found TV fame. “I not really sure why that’s happened because I had a great time at Stockton Arc a few years ago and I’ve toured to Yorkshire quite often,” says the 29-year-old who is appearing at Middlesbrough Town Hall Crypt on Friday, April 9.

“I remember being 15 or 16 and going to music gigs at the town hall and when the opportunity came through my agent I said ‘yeah, I’ve got to do that’. So it’s a bit of an ambition and this is my first official Middlesbrough gig since I moved away in 2001,” he says.

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He’s gained the reputation of being the Tommy Cooper of Myspace, but immediately puts some distance between himself and the legendary showman by pointing out that a lot of his tricks aren’t for a family audience.

“With my darker edge, I wouldn’t exactly be right for teatime on a Saturday night,” says Firman who found fame as Northerner Tufty in Channel Five’s Monkey Magic and has gone on to produce stunts involving maggots, skewers and cigarette swallowing and a mouse in the blender routine for C4’s Dirty Tricks show.

On the mouse trick he recalls: “We had like a dream set on a whiteboard and you then start to think ‘how can that be done? First of all we could just blend a mouse because they’re just a few quid each’. Then reason kicks in and you realise you have to come up with a trick. Then you figure out how it should be done. Sitting in a room and kicking an idea like that around is really good fun. At that stage anything is possible and the compromise becomes the secret,” he says.

Firman is a fan of dangerous stunt magician David Blaine. “The endurance things are something I wouldn’t do. I wouldn’t sit in a box for 30 days. I’d get bored out of my brain.

Any magic on TV is a good thing because what we do was considered in the lower echelons of entertainment and people like Blaine and Derren Brown have proved it can be smart, entertaining and contemporary. I like to think I’m doing the same sort of thing in my own way,” says Firman, who is set to pop up on a few more primetime shows soon and is working on another solo setpiece based on appearances at the Edinburgh Festival.

He says: “I think it’s quite novel to have a professional performer go on TV and do something rather than a member of the public. At the moment the zeitgeist seems to be somebody’s reality TV journey from amateur to professional, in inverted commas. I’m a big fan of Saturday night entertainment shows and I think it would be great to have a bit of a throwback to that.”

London-based Firman jokes about his early days when he sold car at his dad’s Normanby garage, Alan Firman Car Sales. “If I hadn’t have taken the risk with magic, maybe I’d still be selling cars. Magic and selling cars are the same thing… you’re just lying for a living. I probably shouldn’t have said that because I wouldn’t want to destroy my dad’s reputation in one statement.

“I’m making fun but my sales time has served me well because it’s all about banter and that is the same with magic tricks. With cars I buy for myself it’s more of a practical thing.

For my kind of show I’ve got flight cases for all the bits of equipment so I need a decent-sized hatchback to get everything in. The Ferrari wouldn’t suit me… I wouldn’t get the blender in the back,” he laughs.

And on his big debut he jokes: “Think Los Vegas via Middlesbrough, with blood, levitation and big sharp spiky things. Mum, dad and grandma will definitely clap at the end so I’m guaranteed at least three people applauding.”

■ The Pete Firman Magic Show, Friday, April 9, Middlesbrough Town Hall Crypt, Doors: 7.30pm. Starts: 8pm. Tickets: £12 (£10 concessions).

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