The first thing you notice about Hans Klok, the “fastest magician in the world“, is his hair. A blond mane of epic proportions that’s halfway between an Eighties Duran Duran video and Mufasa from The Lion King. It’s a style designed for the stage and for performance, and so it couldn’t be more suited to its owner, the energetic, acrobatic, Dutch magician, who brings his circus-cum-magic show The Houdini Experience to the capital for a five-week run.

London is, in many respects, the home of magic as a large crowd performance show – something Klok, a performer with 25 years’ experience and a six-month-running Las Vegas show, The Beauty Of Magic, under his belt, knows.

“It’s good to have the show in London because 100 years ago it was the biggest city in the world for magic. There was even a theatre here, The Egyptian Hall, especially built for magic and mystery shows,” he says.

Despite this, magicians as popular entertainers are not what they once were, either in famed escapologist Harry Houdini’s time, or even 15 years ago. With the rise of illusionists such as Derren Brown, simple tricks don’t fool us anymore. We want more magic for our buck. But no one’s told Klok, who delivers the sort of family-friendly, rapid-fire, all-dancing showmanship which many might
class as out-of-date.

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The Houdini Experience is a time-travel dream-shaped journey through magic, stunts and circus acts that scores some serious kitsch kudos with its rag-tag collection of tricks, as well as dancers, acrobats and contortionists. The centre of the show is Klok, who masterminds everything – with the aid of a diamond-encrusted wardrobe of various cuts.

“It is a big Las Vegas-type show with a story,” he tells us. And with that, the audience should expect a big Las Vegas-style plot to boot. “I am lost in a time-machine and end up in the time of the pirates and the 17th century. The other storyline is about Houdini, the greatest magician of all time,“ he says enthusiastically. “He took all of his secrets to his grave, so in this show I challenge some of his illusions by making them more dangerous, updating them for the time we live in.”

Klok serves up his own take on Houdini’s famous water-tank escape, and throws in illusions of his own in this energetic two-and-a-half-hour show. Expect to see the Jaws Of Death, levitations, body slicing “cutting my assistant in two“ routines, alongside a smorgasbord of disappearing and re-appearing feats in which he makes members of his Divas Of Magic (buxomed ladies in increasingly revealing attire), and frequently himself, vanish within a split second.

Indeed, it is the speed with which the illusions are performed – not necessarily the illusions themselves – that stuns. “A normal magician does eight tricks,” Klok says matter-of-factly of the tricks-per-minute rate of his show, “but I do more like 80!”
There are also smaller-scale but no less impressive tricks and sleight-of-hand, such as a table-top routine in which he pulls never-ending wine bottles from a tube, and his own take on the magician’s staple – the card trick.

Klok also has four variety acts: muscled Cuban acrobats Leosvel and Diosmani; Chinese balancing artist Zhang Fan; body-bending duo You And Me; and the rollerskating MG Team. The show is cheesy, for sure, the comedy (“Gordon Brown is a magician – he made millions disappear”), the Vegas showgirl dancing, and classical-meets-euro pop music particularly so, and several routines are more special effect than illusion (Klok’s self-levitation for one). But his energy and enthusiasm is infectious and will leave even the most cynical wondering how he did it.

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Klok began his career as a magician at an early age. “I got a magic box when I was eight, and it had this trick where you took two pieces of rope and made them into one,“ he explains. “I practiced and then showed it to an audience of my parents, grandparents, my brother, and my friends from school. When I showed it to them, someone said, ‘How did you do that?’ and that was my first success. Doing something they didn’t understand was such a thrill that I decided in that moment that I wanted to become a magician.”

Klok has gone on not just to become a magician – he was Dutch and European Youth Champion of Magic by his 14th birthday – but the only magician in Europe with his own show. He’s toured the world, performed at Caesar’s Palace in Vegas in 1996, to a 60million NBC audience and then to a global audience of 500million at the 2006 World Cup in Germany, where he made the competition’s famous gold statue – the one England are destined never to win again – disappear. Yet when quizzed on his magic idols and inspirations, Klok name-checks an odd selection.

He says: “When I was 10, Siegfried and Roy were on TV, these two German guys who had their own shows for 35 years. And then in the Eighties there was Paul Daniels who had his own show every week on the BBC. And, of course, Harry Houdini.”
In the run-up to the launch of his show, Klok was hard at work on the promo trail, and found himself a new admirer in the shape of Kate Moss, who saw him on TV and promptly booked him for Stella McCartney’s London Fashion Week party, where he hypnotised TV presenter Alexa Chung before balancing her across the stage on a sword’s tip.

The Dutchman is no stranger to celebrity assistants and admirers. After holing up in Las Vegas for The Beauty Of Magic at the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino, he had none other than Pamela Anderson on board as his faithful assistant, rumours of a (stage-managed?) relationship following the show for its duration.

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Despite this media-trail, magic and magicians are not as popular as they once were, a fact Klok attributes not to a lack of interest from the public in illusions but rather an impatience on the behalf of performers.

“It’s a long time before you can perform as a magician,” he says. “Anyone can do a card trick but to do a 10-minute routine takes time to perfect. Most people now want to do something, like singing, in which they can get famous fast.”

Despite this lack of patience, judging from the turnout to Klok’s show, the audience is still there – although the illusions aren’t always as beguiling now as they would have been to London crowds 100 years ago.

“When movies like The Prestige and The Illusionist came out, and then Harry Potter, and now this new movie Hugo, they show there is a thirst for escapism from reality, because a magician can do everything you can’t – flying and making himself and other people disappear,“ Klok says.

“But there are only a few magicians worldwide, who have their own shows and perform for paying audiences.” One of this select group of myth-makers is in London for a limited time only – it’s worth catching him before he disappears. %u275A

The Houdini Experience Starring Hans Klok And Company runs at the Peacock Theatre, Portugal Street, Holborn, WC2A 2HT
Until March 25.
Tickets: £19-£52
Station: Holborn