Daredevile Jonathan Goodwin stars in the live show The Illusionists 1903.
Daredevile Jonathan Goodwin stars in the live show The Illusionists 1903. Contributed

Success no illusion: daredevil stars in The Illusionists 1903

THE latest instalment of the popular Illusionists shows goes back in time to the golden age of magic.

Paying homage to a time when daredevils like Houdini were the rock stars of their day, the show features seven diverse illusionists delving into mysteries of the past.

American stuntman Jonathan Goodwin is known as an "escapologist" for his many stunts including being buried alive, locked inside a box with 200,000 bees and being burned at the stake.

Goodwin tells APN about his evolution from maverick to diligent performer and his excitement about his first-ever visit to Australia.


Q: What is it that appeals to you about putting yourself into these dangerous situations which you then have to escape from?

A: Boredom mainly… (just kidding) I'm actually not an adrenaline junky. I love creating spectacle for an audience.

When I was a child I was obsessed with people like Evel Knievel and stories of people like Charles Blondin and Harry Houdini. They were stunt guys, but they were showmen; they were doing it for the crowd. That's what I'm in it for. It's not about me, it's about you guys.


Q: Do things ever go wrong?

A: Usually if things go wrong it's because I haven't done my job properly. Years ago I was a lot more cavalier with my preparation and I did get hurt. I have broken limbs, and been badly burned before.

When you make those kind of mistakes two things can happen: you can either walk away and get a desk job or you can work out where your mistakes were so you never make them again. I am so diligent with my preparation and training that I am always 100 percent confident that I'm going to walk away. Risks are for people who didn't prepare properly.


Q: Do you have any fears, such as claustrophobia, which you've confronted through your stunts?

A: I really don't like heights. Which is odd because an awful lot of my stunts involve being high up.

I guess if I was to psychoanalyse that it's an attempt by my creative subconscious to overcome my fear by immersing myself in it. It hasn't worked yet though. I did a stunt recently in which I was hanging from the edge of a skyscraper by two fingers and that was utterly terrifying. I was prepared, and everything went like clockwork, but I will confess I was bricking it at the time.


Q: What do you do to keep yourself sharp, both mentally and physically?

A: I treat what I do like a regular job, so I train and work every day from about 9am to 5 or 6pm. That could be tedious levels of repetition of one thing, throwing a knife or precision firing crossbows. You do it until it becomes part of you, and thought processes don't enter it. Physically, I work out six days a week for an hour to two hours. I couldn't do what I do if I wasn't in good shape; as I said, I treat it like a job.


Q: What can we expect from you in The Illusionists 1903 show?

A: I don't want to give too much away, but I'm super excited to be a part of this show. My big passion is the world of the Victorian showman daredevil. The period around the 1900s was not just a golden age for magic, but for daredevil performers too. We are talking about a world before insurance and health and safety were even concepts. If you felt like doing something dangerous, then the only response you would get was "what time and can I bring a friend?" Hundreds of thousands of people came to see Houdini hang from buildings, or to watch Blondin walk a tight wire over Niagara on stilts. It was a time in which anything was possible, and we have challenged ourselves to live up to that. I am going to be performing some classics, and also some stunts that have never been attempted before.


Q: You'll be travelling down under for the show. Have you been to Australia before?

A: I haven't been to Australia before, and I am super excited! It has been at the top of my travel wish list for a while now, and I'm really hoping to do some travel and sightseeing while we are there. I have literally never met an Aussie I didn't like (a lot of my best friends are Aussie) so I can't wait to get there and see what it's all about.


Q: As a stuntman, is there anything in Australia that catches your eye, such as our famous Harbour Bridge or the Sydney Opera House?

A: Of course. Stunts are as much about the backdrop as they are about the feat itself. Australia obviously has some of the most iconic and breathtaking scenery, landscapes and backdrops in the world. I'm actually seriously worried that I won't want to leave.


The Illusionists 1903 plays QPAC's Concert Hall from Sunday through January 11. Tickets start from $79.

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