Pit Hartling on The Elusive Illusive

By Pit Hartling - Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Ben’s magic is pure and simple, in the best sense of the word. Over the years he has managed to distill his routines down to their essence: clear in plot, direct in method (bear in mind that direct does not always mean easy) and strong in effect. Add to that Ben’s often playful presentations and his engaging, true-to-himself personality, and the result is excellent magic for the real world.

I suspect it all has very much to do with Ben as a person. Many years ago, Mike Close was asked to give advice on how to become a good magician. His answer: “Get a life.”

Well, Ben has lived in cultures as diverse as his native England, the far reaches of China, and for the past decade, Japan. He speaks English, German, Chinese, Japanese and Spanish, was a classical pianist for many years and is one of the most quick-witted people I know.

The man can be quite spectacularly chaotic and at the same time he is a no-nonsense guy who gets things done; together with a team of clever friends he thought-up and built three of the most stunning and beautiful Escape Rooms I have ever seen.

Ben Danners

In short, Ben is at home in many worlds. I believe this shaped his approach to magic: Among Ben’s close friends are musicians, professional stand-up comedians as well as other world-class magicians. (In fact, several times when Ben wanted to get to know and spend time with someone from the magic world, he simply invited them over to Japan for a number of lectures and a week or so of guided sight-seeing and vacation. That he would use his quiet British charm to trick his innocent victims into giving several six-hour lectures plus a number of different public shows and workshops and still afterwards consider him a friend must be one of his best tricks!)

These influences and more (Ben’s closest partner-in-magical-crime, for example, is the brilliantly clever and no less funny Ponta the Smith) are reflected in his creations. In this book you will find routines for all kinds of performing situations, from informal settings with table or without (“One-Track Mind”, “Technicolour”, “Triumph for Two”), to more theatrical items (“Babel Coins”, “Invisible Sleeves”, “Mirror Mirror”) and multi-phase performance-pieces (“Uncommon Sense”). In between Ben shares insightful and entirely practical essays about magic and performing and also some of his original moves (“Recycling Presentations” and “Drop Shuffle” are just two of my favourites).

During a visit to Frankfurt by Ben and his lovely fiancée Naoko, as well as our extended time in Japan, I have witnessed Ben perform almost every one of the routines in this book. Be it from across the lunch table or in evening-shows at Osaka’s “Impossible Theatre”, I can personally attest to their effectiveness. “Babel Coins” is a beautiful piece of visual coin magic woven into an amusing and fascinating fiction, and “Mirror Mirror” is an engaging and memorable piece of magical theatre that can easily close any close-up show, to mention only two.

The “Illusive” of this book’s title can indeed be elusive — fleeting, frail and precious little things. Luckily for us, Ben has not only found quite a number of these rare beauties, but after nurturing them into full-grown routines, he decided to set them free and share them with us and thus, potentially, our audiences. I would thank him for that, but I am not sure he would listen — instead, he is probably already out there again, carefully tiptoeing on the hunt for more.

Pit Hartling
Frankfurt, March 2021

From Pit Hartling's introduction to The Elusive Illusive.

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