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Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Use your illusion

Stuntman Jonathan Goodwin is a daredevil in every sense of the word.

“I’ve been hanged, buried alive, locked in a box covered in 2,000 bees, attacked by sharks, bitten by snakes … A lot of crazy, stupid, dangerous things.

“I did a burning straitjacket, while being hung upside down,” he drops, oh so casually.

One part of the acclaimed blockbuster magic show The Illusionists, Goodwin tells Canberra Weekly his component of the show isn’t magic, but more “theatrical stupidity”.

“Basically, I do all of the things your mother told you not to do,” he says.

“One stunt I do in this show involves lying on a single nail and I get an audience member up on stage to smash a cinderblock on me.”

Goodwin says he knew he wanted to be a stuntman from age seven after reading a book about Harry Houdini.

“Once I realised you could do that for a living I didn’t want to do anything else,” he says.

“I’m incredibly lucky to get up in front of vast audiences and get to do what I do, it’s a wonderful life that I live.”

While most mere mortals would be terrified by the thought of performing one of Goodwin’s daring stunts, he says his confidence comes from being well versed.

“For me, a lot of it is about practice and preparation; by the time I come to do whatever it is I’m doing, I’ve practised it so much that I’m very comfortable.

“I can negate the need to panic or get terrified because I know what I’m doing.”

Goodwin describes The Illusionists production like an old-school variety style show meets the cutting edge of magic and daredevil performance.

Stuntman Jonathan Goodwin has performed numerous wild stunts over his career, including doing a burning straitjacket while being hung upside down. Photos supplied.

“It’s a very high-tech show with a lot of video integration and front row projection stuff; there’s a very modern score, dancers and everything that feels like a bit of a rock show.

“It’s a really fun show to see and be a part of because, although it’s a very modern show in its structure and content, in some ways it’s a bit like an old school variety show.

“We all have our area of specialty, so really it’s a show where there’s something for everybody and I enjoy watching it as much as being on stage,” he says.

Goodwin says with eight performers comprising the show, there’s always something new coming, which is what traditionally works with variety.

“There are certainly times when we’re all on stage together, and then we hand off and take the spotlight for short periods of time, between five to eight minutes each.

“From that point of view, that’s how it’s structured, and it seems to work. It’s been a very successful show; we’ve played Broadway a few times and are going back for our fourth run.”

Goodwin says that variety element is what makes The Illusionists a great family show with something for everybody.

“It will entertain you whether you’re six or 96.

“These days we’re a little jaded, we see our entertainment through a screen and think there must be some camera trick, and it means you don’t believe your eyes anymore. That doesn’t exist in live theatre.

“When I’m on fire in a straitjacket, the first 10 rows can feel the heat so they know it’s real. It’s a visceral experience,” he says.

The Illusionists will be at Canberra Theatre, 6-16 December; canberratheatrecentre.com.au

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