How Dynamo turned illness into his superpower
WHEN severe illness left him bedridden, Dynamo feared he would never be able to perform magic again.
The UK magician, who rose to fame with his award-winning TV series Magician Impossible, was hospitalised almost three years ago when a bout of food poisoning was complicated by his existing Crohn's disease.
He then developed reactive arthritis, and was put on high doses of steroids to treat his swollen and painful joints.
His new TV documentary Beyond Belief chronicles his long journey from sudden illness to his recovery and triumphant career return.
"The fact I am able to perform magic again is a dream for me. When I was told I might not be able to do it any more my whole reality just changed," he says.
"I've never been a defeatist, so after wallowing in the depression of it for a little while I ended up thinking 'OK if I can't physically perform the way I used to, what if I perform in a new style and put the magic in the audience's hands?'.
Dynamo, real name Steven Frayne, created more than 200 new magic ideas sketched from his hospital bed.
"Those ideas wouldn't have come about if I wasn't in hospital," he says.
"Because I had to go so long without my skill set I spent years developing, it forced me to develop a new skill set and in some ways I am stronger than I was before … I turned my disabilities in to superpowers.
"When I first got diagnosed with the arthritis and my hands were too sore to even shuffle cards, the way I built my strength up again was each day I'd place one card in my hand and get used to that pain. Then over time I'd add another card, then another card. I got used to the sensation so much it allowed me to be able to tell how many cards were in my hand and I use that in the first episode. It's a simple piece of card magic but it's one of my most favourite pieces of magic in the show."
But just as Beyond Belief was about to premiere, the 37-year-old was dealt another cruel blow last month when he contracted coronavirus.
"The medications I take wipe out my immune system, so I'm in that high-risk category. There were two weeks where I was stuck in bed and my body wasn't in a good way," he says.
"The virus exacerbated my existing conditions but I haven't had it nowhere near as bad as other people. It's a nasty disease and I wouldn't wish it on anybody."
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Sending my love and support to all the incredibly dedicated NHS staff helping to save lives across the UK. PLEASE support them by keeping yourself to yourself and staying home whenever possible (...this pic was taken last year with the amazing team that looked after me 🙏) #stayhome #protecttheNHS #savelives
But the reaction to the series is lifting his spirits as he recovers and he hopes it inspires others to make the best of a challenging situation.
"It's been the boost I needed," he says.
"Everybody goes through adversity, and right now the entire world is turned upside down. If anything is taken away from my story it's that you can't take things for granted.
"Right now the world, in some ways, is more connected than it ever has been. It's so unfortunate the tragedy going on, but it's also bringing the community spirit together."
The three-part series culminates in the riskiest stunt he has ever attempted.
"If you imagine some of the things I did in Magician Impossible, like walking across the Thames, it's on that scale and I think everyone's going to love it," he says.
"Honestly this show means more to me than any magic I've ever done in my entire life.
"Hitting rock bottom and nearly losing it all gave me that reinvigoration I needed to fall back in love with the thing that got me through everything."
Dynamo: Beyond Belief premieres tomorrow at 7.30pm on SBS. It will also be available to stream on SBS On Demand.