He’s deviously charming and very good-looking too. There’s also something very familiar about his face. Magician Andrew Lee might have been an actor in another life, but in this one he’s chosen to be an illusionist. We caught up with him on the eve of his performance in Chennai and discovered that magicians are artistes in their own right…
What is magic and how would you explain what being a magician is?
For me, magic is a very general term. Magic is not just about tricks, it is about so much more than the trick. It is about achieving something that you never thought you could achieve, and working towards achieving it. To me, magic is like music… because like music, it has the power to affect your emotions, the power to communicate and the power to heal. Yes, there are bits about it that are supernatural, but I prefer to look at myself as a storyteller: a storyteller who hopes to speak to you and inspire you through his story and not convince you that he has supernatural powers.
Nobody is born a magician — so you must have learnt your craft somewhere?
I remember as a child, the first magic tricks I ever learnt were from my cousins in the UK. They would visit us in Malaysia every year and they’d have a new trick for me. I remember being very keenly interested in those tricks. And then, I bought my first magic book at a second hand sale on a ship that had ported in Malaysia. It got more serious when I started watching television and I saw more magicians performing. I was always wondering if this was real or was it all black magic or was it just camera tricks. I began to research on magic and that’s how it all began.
How do you make people believe in your magic?
For me, it’s always a wrestle between the trick and entertainment. I’ve failed as a magician if I present something as a trick and take joy in having fooled you. For me it’s mostly about entertaining you. It is to make you smile. It is a universal language that breaks all barriers and boundaries.
Are there any special tricks you are famous for?
Most magicians think that to be a good magician, I need to learn and perform the hardest trick. I think as long as you can perform magic that gives the audience something to be engaged with, you’re successful. The audience is never really bothered about how long it took you to learn a trick or how hard it is to perform it. Your simplest trick could be the one that is most impressive to them.
How accepted are you as a magician?
Being Asian, most parents want their children to be doctors or engineers and I too decided to pursue a degree in nutritional science, but in my case… my parents were very supportive of my career choices. Once they saw me travel the world and make a career out of magic — they became even more supportive.
How differently do different audiences react?
The Indian audiences really express themselves as an audience. They go really crazy. But there are audiences who really hold their expressions back. Like we were performing in Japan for a while and it took me a while to get used to their subtle forms of appreciation. They were almost silent during my shows and would congratulate me outside — I’d be left wondering why they didn’t appreciate me during the show — I guess it was a cultural thing.
Would you ever want to be a mentor and pass your craft down to another generation?
Magic has been passed down for generations. That’s the only way it has grown. I would love to teach someone younger and be a mentor to someone. I was home-schooled and magic was my best friend. It gave me the confidence to deal with society and become who I am today.