MAGICIAN Ben Hart has sympathy for the teachers at his old Hampshire school.

It’s never easy, he admits, trying to teach the class clown. Especially one who has realised his chosen career isn’t likely to be based on anything being taught in the classroom.

Now one of the world’s brightest young magicians, and about to star in a major West End show, Ben who grew up in Winchester remembers his days at Kings School in the city with fondness and more than a little understanding for his teachers.

“There was definitely a discipline problem there. How do you control the class clown who knows that being the centre of attention is going to be his job,” joked the 24-year-old who at the age of 16 won the Magic Circle’s Young magician of the Year Award.

“I was on TV, a visible success at what I wanted to do. I must have been absolute murder for them. After all, magicians are quite slippery characters by nature.”

This month sees Ben joining other world-class magicians in the first major magic show to be staged in London’s West End for 25 years. Impossible runs at the newly-restored Noel Coward Theatre from July 25.

The show is promising audiences: ‘the very best magicians and tricksters from around the world, fusing dazzling grand stage illusions, up-close-and-personal magic, cutting-edge technological tricks and death-defying escapology in a fast-paced, breath-taking spectacular.’ For Ben the prospect of performing alongside such names as TV Escapologist Jonathan Goodwin; sophisticated sorceress Katherine Mills; mind-reader Chris Cox and explosive break-dancing street magician Magical Bones, is both exciting and daunting.

“It’s fantastic to travel around London and see the posters for the show and to know you are appearing with such high-profile and talented magicians. It’s also daunting to think about having to go on stage after someone of their ability has performed.”

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Ben can’t recall at what age he began his fascination with magic, but by the age of eight he was buying equipment and tricks by mail and in shops.

“I remember going to a friend’s birthday aged about five and there was a clown doing magic tricks and someone said Ben was already a magician so don’t pick him to help you, but I can’t recall quite when I started this fascination for magic.

By his early teens he was earning money for magic gigs, until at 16 he was awarded the coveted title of Young Magician.

After school, however, he was thrust into the heady world of professional magic where, he explains, there is no formal training other than on the job.

“I suppose magic was perfect for someone like me who has an interest in theatre, mechanics and science, but there is no formal training.

“Most other entertainment professions do have some qualifications and training - you can even get a degree in puppetry - but nothing for magic. You have to learn by watching others.”

Joining the Magic Circle is his industry’s badge of recognition, with newcomers required to prove their talent before entry. For Ben, watching how other established magicians work lasted for only so long before he knew he had to find his own path.

“Magic is such a rich and diverse subject that you quickly learn that you need to stop watching what others are doing and create your own style and tricks. Take a little film and theatre and even comedy and then layer the performance.

“Every show is different. With lots of magic there’s the need to sculpt it to the audience. How they react one night will be different to every other. You need to be generous and establish a relationship with the audience, definitely playing a game with them. In the end magic must bring them wonder.”

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Success quickly followed and since leaving school Ben has become well known on both TV and live stage. His most recent show The Vanishing Boy sold out to astonished audiences. He recently starred in BBC 3’s Killer Magic, where his unique and unorthodox approaches amazed audiences across the country.

For Ben the golden age of magic were the years before the First World War, when audiences were wowed by this new form of entertainment. When asked to name his greatest hero he quickly mentions The Great Houdini.

“It was a time before most people travelled and this was the way they were introduced to the wonders of the Orient. Those magicians were the rock stars of their day.”

Impossible runs at the Noel Coward Theatre from July 24 to August 29.