Despite the obvious and heavy editing of this segment, it was still an impressive audition.

An audition for Britain’s Got Talent. Li Lau & Brendon: One guy solving a Rubick’s Cube while another guy sits in front of a crossbow. Does this make you uncomfortable? I guess that’s the point!


If you’ve ever got the impression that talent shows like Britain’s Got Talent tend to cycle through those early acts way too quickly, you’re not alone. We’ve heard many a tale of good acts getting waylaid by the format’s notoriously aggressive editing. It takes a lot of trimming to keep talent shows watchable. 

One victim of that brutal trimming is magician, Martin Rees, who set an actual Guinness World Record during his audition for Britain’s Got Talent back in January, and ended up on the show for a whopping three seconds. It wasn’t even three seconds of magic. It was him talking about magic. Painful. 

During his audition, Rees broke the record for the most magic tricks performed in one minute while blindfolded, pulling off a smooth 20 tricks at breakneck speed. I’m sure the judges were thrilled, if they were in the room, but the show’s editors apparently didn’t think it was worth the viewing audience’s time. 

The footage now belongs to BGT, but fortunately for us, Rees was asked to shoot some test footage before his audition, and he held onto that. 

Then again, maybe the world record isn’t even that impressive for Rees himself. It is his third after all. 

It seems like the deck was stacked against the magical acts in this year’s Britain’s Got Talent competition. Several of them encountered unfortunate technical errors, and those who didn’t were stymied by by unappreciative judges and apathetic viewers at home. Hilarious magic veteran Mandy Muden faced both. 

In the opening moments of her semi-final performance, a body double she was using in one of her tricks got stuck after (deliberately) falling off the stage and was caught by a behind-the-scenes camera while exiting the stage. I presumed the gaffe was part of her act, but the footage has been removed for the official YouTube video of her performance.

Even if it was on purpose, the British press has been particularly enthusiastic about “EXPOSING” the secrets behind the secrets behind the tricks in this year’s competition. Nearly every performance has been followed by tabloid hacks and gormless Twitter gremlins pontificating loudly that they know how a trick was done. I don’t think the jokey artifice did Muden any favors when it came down to the votes. Neither did the show’s audio set up. Muden later had her mic cut during another trick. She handled the interruption like a pro and proceeded to put on another great performance. 

Sadly, it wasn’t enough. She was eliminated from the competition on Friday, leaving the BGT finals without any magical talent whatsoever.  

The eventual winner was comedian Lee Ridley, better known as Lost Voice Guy. 

To add insult to injury, Muden then had her flight cancelled on the way home from the competition. 

The Britain’s Got Talent semi-finals have been brutal for the talent show’s magical acts, with over half a dozen magicians, escapologists, and mentalists getting buzzed or voted off thus far.

Last night, early favorite Marc Spelmann was eliminated after his performance, an extended feat of mentalism with sappy underpinnings, tied up the judges but failed to impress the audience at home. One suspects Spelmann might be a little bit critical of the result. 

Mr Uekusa‘s exposed all in another hilarious magical stripping act. Alas, threatened by his raw sexual magnetism, Amanda Holden gave the Asian sex god the buzzer. At least he managed to depart the stage in style, his dignity preserved by a tiny silk towel. 

On the 30th, tribal magical troupe, Magus Utopia, was eliminated after an exciting performance that didn’t resonate with the judges.

This leaves comic magician, Mandy Muden, as magic’s last hope in the competition.

One of the many magical acts in this year’s Britain’s Got Talent is a swarm of dancing, magic-performing children that call themselves Acrocadabra. Everything was going swimmingly in their semi-final performance, until, in the grand finale, they pulled a cloth off of a box to reveal…

… a bald stagehand squatting awkwardly behind the prop, mouthing what appears to be the words, “what the f**k?”

The kids, to their credit, handled the situation like pros, and kept smiling even as the stagehand scuttled off stage during a camera pan. 

The judges didn’t notice the blunder, but the hopeful kiddos had their tiny hearts broken when they were eliminated during the results show anyway. When showed the footage later, Simon Cowell and co apparently had a good laugh at the bewildered crewman.

“You know what he’s done, he’s literally lost them a place in the final,” he joked.  

This year’s Britain’s Got Talent has been mercifully free of “surprisingly” good mawkish covers of 90’s pop songs delivered by unassuming members of the public, and pleasantly heavy on decent magical acts. Sadly, it’s now down to just one magical act, as bearded escapologist, Matt Johnson, was eliminated following a tense water torture escape that went slightly wrong, and Maddox Dixon’s illusionist act failed to impress the judges. 

Johnson was doing well, but faltered at the last padlock after holding his breath for over two minutes. With paramedics ready to assist, he gestured for a pry bar and released himself from the box to cheers from the audience. Even if Johnson hadn’t slipped up during his performance, the judges were already torn on his occasionally disturbing brand of escapology.  

Maddox Dixon secured himself a strong start in the competition with a well-received Rubik’s cube routine during the auditions, but a weak performance in the semi-finals and strong competition knocked him out of the running.

He started with some passable sleight-of-hand, moved on to an imaginary-card to box trick that failed to impress the judges, and ended with a levitation illusion that looked like the midpoint in a tutorial video. The whole routine was set to a Hans Zimmer track (please, leave Hans alone) and included a monologue so portentous I was convinced the act was self parody until the gimmicked Rubik’s cube came out. Even if Dixon had brought his A-game, he was unlikely to win against The D-Day Darlings, whose mix of military imagery and WW2-era nostalgia is catnip to BGT’s largely boomer audience. 

Quick changers, Ellie and Jeki were also eliminated via a buzzer from Simon Cowell.

The judges on Britain’s Got Talent look very uncomfortable when 26-year-old Japanese illusionist Sora starts his sexy striptease prediction, asking them to flip through a notebook and select three choices from a variety of lascivious lingerie. Of course, Sora’s got a twist up his sleeve (which he promptly removes), showing a little cheek for this cheeky little trick. It’s enough to get him a standing ovation from most of the judges, and passage to the next round. Check out the video above to see the trick in full, and check out this link for more performances from this season of BGT.

Diminutive magician and anarchic, couch-destroying firebrand, Issy Simpson, recently did her thing on The Ellen Show. The nine-year-old mentalist performed her two signature tricks, leaving host, Ellen DeGeneres, flabbergasted. 

Simpson, who has been dubbed the, “real life Hermione Granger,” for obvious reasons, shot to national fame when she appeared on Britain’s Got Talent and made it all the way to the finals at just 8 years old. 

The tiny magician’s heritage did generate some controversy, when it was revealed that her grandfather and magic tutor, Russ Stevens, had previously coached contestants on the show. Some suggested that Simpson got her place on the show via nepotism rather than by her skills as an entertainer. 

According to British rag, The Daily Mail, a reliable source inside the show had this to say on Stevens and his granddaughter:

He is well known in the magic world as the main magic man behind the scene on Britain’s Got Talent. I have no idea why he is doing this. Surely the grand-daughter of the person in charge of magic performing a self-working routine she’s taught by him isn’t right?’ 

Not one to let a child get away with appearing on a televised talent show, the same source also argued that Simpson’s gimmicked props were “too expensive,” when compared to the tools used by other contestants.  

The young magician was knocked out of the competition in the final stage, but is already well on the way to establishing an enviable magic career. Earlier this month she made her US TV debut. 


I admit, whenever I see a magician whip out a Rubik’s cube, my first response is invariably a weary sigh. Solving a Rubik’s cube is not impressive. Solving one fast is only impressive to nerds. Using one in a routine just screams “hey, check out my gimmicked cube!” Fortunately, Britain’s Got Talent contestant, Maddox Dixon, had a couple of interesting cube tricks that forced me to retract my world-weary sigh and replace it with a begrudging nod of approval. 

The 31-year-old magician actually has the music industry to thank for his booming magic career. An instrumentalist for a number of major bands, Dixon picked up magic as a way to entertain the pop stars he found himself sharing changing rooms with. One of those pop stars turned out to be Chris Martin of Coldplay fame, who liked Dixon’s work enough that he had the part-time magician become a full-time magician and open for the band on their Head Full of Dreams US tour. If Dixon wasn’t on a path to magic stardom before he met Martin, opening for the third largest grossing music tour in human history probably helped.  

At this point, you’re probably expecting me to say something mean about Coldplay, as is the fashion of the day. I will not. A Rush of Blood to the Head is a good album and I will fight anyone who says otherwise. They also have pretty good taste in magicians it seems.