Katherine MacAlister meets Etienne Pradier, who left his native France to make it big in front of British and global audiences

Sorry, I was just perfecting a new trick involving a bubblegum machine” award-winning magician Etienne Pradier says when he finally appears a few minutes late for our interview, “but now I’m all yours.”

Which didn’t surprise me in the slightest, his magic trickery as well known as the guests he entertains, from the likes of The Queen and Prince Charles to David Cameron, Johnny Depp and Sir Bruce Forsyth. But now Etienne is all yours as well, shrugging off the corporate spotlight to get up in the public arena once again with his own stage show Mirage Magic coming to The Theatre Chipping Norton tomorrow night.

Joining forces with fellow French magician and mind-reader Nicolas Clement, Etienne says he’s “enormously excited” by the challenge and that he’d needed to try something a bit different: “For the past 20 years I’ve specialised in private parties, all over Europe, which has been very nice but people always came up afterwards and asked where they could come to see me. So now they know,” he smiles.

Etienne is as passionate about magic as he’s ever been, coming over here from Lyon to hone his skills and follow his dreams 25 years ago. You might have seen him on the recent TV magic show Penn & Teller where he won the ‘Fool Us’ competition, but his credentials are impeccable, winning the prestigious Magic Circle title of Magician of the Year.

“I’m a classic magician and comedian all rolled into one who can laugh about himself. Nic is more serious, so between us we cover the different facets of magic in the show, meaning it’s a match made in heaven,” he explains. “It’s more of a variety show but I think that’s the way things will go, rather than trickery on TV,” he predicts.

So what can we expect? Rabbits in hats? “No animals! In England they don’t like that sort of thing, although I had a rabbit in my show once, but there was hair everywhere, and then it ran off on stage so I gave it to one of the audience with the cage,” he laughs, “I have too much to think about already.”

Make no mistake about it, professional magicians have to work incredibly hard to get to the top and stay there. “Eighty per cent of magicians are amateur because it’s really hard to make a sustainable career out of it, so you should never take anything for granted and always challenge yourself, enter all the competitions, and push and push.”

So is it a case of practice, practice, practice? “The funny thing about magic is that you have to feel it, you have to have it in you. You can train for 24 hours a day but without having that something inside, you can’t learn that,” Etienne says in his wonderfully thick French accent.

It’s still an odd career choice though. “Well my dad liked joking around and always got up at parties to do tricks which was really embarrassing,” he laughs, “But he’s very proud of what I do and goes round his village in France telling everyone who I’ve met and what I’ve been up to.”

So why the UK? Couldn’t he have made it in France? “I travel around the world and every audience is different but I love the British sense of humour, and they enjoy magic as well as seeing it as a challenge, while the French just want to catch you out – they don’t want to be tricked.”

Happily married with two children, Etienne is here to stay, but he’s excited about the new direction his career has taken. “It’s received a good reaction so far, and I love to travel around meeting people, so I can’t wait,” he says. “Besides, I’m 48 now, there’s no magic there, so it was a case of now or never,” he adds, still laughing as he returns to crack the elusive bubblegum machine.

Join Nicolas Clement and Etienne Pradier for a top-notch evening of head-spinning magic tomorrow at The Theatre Chipping Norton.
Call 01608 642350 or see chippingnortontheatre.com