Jonathan Goodwin, a British-born daredevil, is widely considered one of the most creative, skilled and crazy stunt performers in the world. Over his career, he has been hung by his toes from helicopters, attacked by sharks and burned at the stake. He’s also been sewn up inside a dead cow!
Some of these jaw-dropping feats will be on display when “The Illusionists – Magic of the Holidays” comes to the National Theatre from Dec. 3 to Dec. 8, with a collection of magicians and other performers doing things that will boggle the mind.
Goodwin considers himself something of the “odd person out” when it comes to the group that makes up the Illusionists, as what he does is not a trick—it’s all very real.
“I’m not really a magician, I’m more of a stunt person,” he said. “I had a friend of mine who was part of the original cast who asked me if I would consider joining, but my initial reaction was ‘no’ because I find it hard enough that people think what I do are magic tricks anyway.”
But after thinking about it for a while, Goodwin realized this would be a golden opportunity to do a big show and unleash his brand of daredevil talent on a global scale.
“I’m so glad I did, because it’s been a wonderful experience and I’ve traveled the world, performing on some of the biggest stages there are,” he said.
His interest in these mind-blowing performances came about after reading a book on Houdini as a child, and he became fascinated in this person who had superhero qualities, but was really just a man.
“Once I realized you could do something like this as a job, I never wanted to do anything else,” Goodwin said.
For the show at the National, Goodwin will be performing several different escape stunts, including one which he recently developed and never performed on tour before.
“It’s an onstage version of being buried alive,” Goodwin said. “It’s statistically the most dangerous escape stunt ever conceived; more escape artists have died doing that than anything else. And it’s never been done successfully on a stage before. It’s one of the things Houdini failed at—he tried and needed to be rescued.”
Goodwin did do the stunt to a lesser degree on the finals of “Britain’s Got Talent,” and he considers it a huge undertaking and physically, the most difficult stunt he’s ever done.
“I may regret doing it on tour, but my fellow Illusionists have persuaded me to do it,” he said. “What’s great about this version of the show is that there are fewer people in the cast, so we get to do a little bit more, so the audience will get to know us a little bit better.”
Steve Valentine will act as host for the event, and Goodwin noted he’s one of those Hollywood types who is engaging, wild and funny, and transitions the show nicely.
“We have a French illusion act, Valentin Azéma, who is fantastic,” Goodwin said. “I am not a big fan of the big-box illusions, but his stuff is extraordinary and the audience will go wild for him.”
Also appearing will be Stuart MacLeod, a Scottish magician who uses comedy to create some awe-dropping, controversial magic; Darren Partridge, aka Dizzy, a trickster who combines magic, physical comedy and theatrical thievery, all delivered with mischievous British charm; The Manipulator, Florian Sainvet, described as a futuristic manipulator and illusionist and the lightning-fast and world-famous quick-change artists Sos & Victoria, who have perfected their modern interpretation of traditional performance art by combining fashion, stagecraft and sleight-of-hand.
“It’s a real variety show. One of the great things about this show is there’s something for everyone, sort of a ‘League of Extraordinary Gentleman’ magic show, as we all have our own special skill,” Goodwin said. “People are so used to seeing these kinds of things on a screen, but when you are sitting in a theater and it’s all happening right in front of you, you realize how amazing these performers all are.”