“How did they do that!?” – as head-scratchers go, Impossible is up there with the best of them.
From catching a playing card while back-flipping through the air to popping a balloon held by an unsuspecting audience member with a 200-mile an hour crossbow, the trickery and spectacle of the show took the West End by storm over the summer.
Now it’s waving its magic wand on tour and will be stopping off in Sunderland later this month.
The performers in the show haven’t been to Hogwarts, but they have honed their craft everywhere from sleight of hand on the streets of England to death-defying stunts on the highest of skyscrapers and sharpest of nails.
But it is perhaps Magical Bones, one of a troupe of performers in the show, who’s taken the most unusual path to Impossible.
The South London street conjurer is a break dancing master who’s danced for the likes of Madonna and Black Eyed Peas.
Now his dexterity is leaving the magic crowds baffled.
“I’ve been doing magic since I was 10,” he said. “When I danced professionally I would do tricks for people on music videos and it just naturally evolved.
“A lot of people who can break dance do things with their hands, like piano, as they have that dexterity.” He added: “People think of street magic as contemporary, but it’s actually one of the oldest forms of magic. History has come full circle and it’s back to its core, which is that relationship between magician and spectator.”
The show itself is a magic box of spectacles.
Jonathan Goodwin brings a daredevil element to the proceedings with his escapology and stunts – and the show has the eye-watering insurance premiums to prove it.
Speaking about how the tour came about, he said: “It did surprisingly well, it’s not the kind of show you usually find in the West End, but the art form is experiencing a renaissance at the minute. The tour is just as big.
“That was one of the things I was worried about. My stunts are very large and elaborate, such as being hung upside down and set on fire. But everything is on the same scale, if not bigger, on tour. Nobody will have been to a show like it.”
Speaking about magic’s and escapology’s resurgence in popularity, he said: “I think it’s because people have changed how they see entertainment. The golden era was at the turn of the last century, then there was the advent of movies and the progression of CGI, and the screens got smaller and smaller.
“But people rebel and want that live experience that they feel is real. When I’m on stage, I can feel that heat, it’s real and anything can happen. It’s a level of excitement you don’t get on a screen.
“When you watch something on TV you’re passively watching, but with this show it’s about interaction, you need the audience to respond.”
He added: “And it’s like the old variety shows in that everyone has a different kind of talent.”
Sections of Jonathan’s act involve brave audience members who help him with his stunts.
“It’s a safe experience,” he assures me. “We’re never going to make fun of you, or make you look stupid. People should come along with the expectation that they might get pulled up.
“We are giving someone a real experience here, it’s extraordinary close-up.”
Chris Cox’s role in the show is award-winning mind reading, which has seen him star in BBC 3’s Killer Magic.
“The joy of Impossible is how many reactions it draws from the crowd,” he said. “You get child-like wonder, laughter, people who are grossed out, people who think ‘is this for real’?
“It’s great to be able to see their jaws drop. You can’t do this show without an audience, they are just so involved.”
Like most of the show, Chris’s acts is built around audience participation. So does he ever pick someone whose mind can’t be ‘read’?
“Every now and again someone is really closed. But when they’re in the right mindset, it’s a lot about the psychology of performer and audience,” he explains. “When they are on stage they are playing a role, even if they don’t know it. There are specific patterns in response to things I say, but there is an element of improv to it too.
“My act is about using magic, psychology, my devilish good looks and lying,” he quipped. “Some of the tricks are grounded in science so I can manipulate them with human behaviour. But every audience is different, which makes every show different.”
•Impossible is at Sunderland Empire from February 23-27. Tickets from Tel. 0844 871 3022 or online at www.ATGtickets.com/Sunderland
•To win tickets to Impossible see Saturday’s Chipper Club.