Sabine van Diemen didn’t have time to be anxious about performing her very first illusion. Van Diemen, one of the stars of Metaverse of Magic – playing QPAC from January 4 – appeared as the assistant in the now-infamous “fire cage” trick.
The young dancer had been plucked from the Holland Show Ballet corps hours earlier to fill in for an injured colleague on opening night. It was do or die. Literally.
“I appeared and I just looked at the audience and they were all like – wow,” van Diemen says. “I thought, ‘oh my God, you have no idea, this is fun’. It immediately intrigued me.”
The then 18-year-old exchanged her pointe shoes for a suitcase of secrets, working as a magician’s assistant for multiple performers before she was asked to create a solo act. There was one problem – money.
Conceptualising and building an illusion from scratch can cost thousands of dollars. Instead, van Diemen borrowed some illusions from her colleague and mentor Hans Klok, a well-known Dutch magician.
Armed with her borrowed bag of tricks, she landed a contract on London’s West End in 2016, before touring North America with The Illusionists. Next, with a desire to create her own magic, van Diemen packed her bags for Las Vegas to train at the Superhero Foundry.
“That is where they train all the stunt people for big Hollywood movies,” she explains. “First they invite you to go for a two-hour training session, so you can see what you like.
“Do you like whips? Do you like swords? Do you like knife throwing? Do you like (ninja) star throwing? It was just me and 20 super-buff guys who were ready to go to Hollywood to be stunt performers.
“I trained and wrote a script with Jonathan Goodwin, who is still my manager and a very well-known magician as well. And here we are … it took me all over the world.”
This immersion into the world of dangerous stunts encouraged van Diemen to embrace her inner daredevil and keep her audiences on the edge of their seats. Her acts in Metaverse of Magic are fittingly themed Courage.
“The first thing I do is a bullwhip act,” van Diemen explains. “I whip candles and flowers out of people’s mouths. And the second thing I do is a crossbow act where I shoot objects out of people’s hands, even as far as going over the shoulder while standing backwards, looking in a compact mirror and shooting a balloon above someone’s head.”
As Brisbane audiences will soon discover, Metaverse of Magic is not your typical magic show. Five very different illusionists share their talents in separate acts while the audience play along on a mobile app to help the main character reach the “inner realm” of magic. There’s also an ensemble of dancers, sophisticated sets and projection.
Van Diemen says each magician plays an active role in shaping the interactive elements so that they complement what’s happening on stage, rather than detract from it.
“It’s very clear when you’re on your phone and it’s very clear when you put your phone away,” she says.
One thing the Dutch performer prefers not to discuss is the gender politics of her profession. Van Diemen acknowledges she is a rarity in a male-dominated industry – Metaverse of Magic is unusual in that it features two female magicians – but says her colleagues have been incredibly supportive and helpful. She hopes there will come a time when a magician’s gender is no longer a point of discussion.
“I am dying to see the new generation. If some Beyoncé of magic could stand up, that would be really beneficial. Then no one will ask about it anymore.”
Metaverse of Magic, Concert Hall, QPAC, January 4-14