“It’s months – even though this material I’ve done before there’s so much preparation; there’s a physical element to it, with a full strength and conditioning program.” Hearing Paul Cosentino talk – best known by his stage moniker Cosentino – one would think we were talking to an athlete on the eve of an Olympic Games. Rather, we’re talking to a magician, escape artist and illusionist, in the midst of a spellbinding national tour.
For most showbiz road dogs, tours mean airport waits, seedy green rooms and below-average motels, punctuated by the 1-2 hour routine of performing repertoire, often drilled to the point of stagnation.
For Cosentino, the nightly stage ritual involves mind-bending illusions, death-defying stunts and, famously, underwater cage escapes, in the tradition of magics Don Bradman, Harry Houdini.
It’s high stakes, every night – and not just in a safety sense.
“I’ll tell you what’s real – the insurance!” Cosentino – who insists on being called Cos – laughs. “What a hoodwink if I paid premium insurance and those escapes weren’t real!
“There’s safety involved – it’s not death wish stuff, (but) I don’t want to make you solve a puzzle – I want to entertain you.”
Far from the streetside, wagon-dwelling stereotype, Cos is the archetypal rockstar magician.
Heavily tattooed, lean and bristling with excitable energy, Cos exudes the same charm that first endeared him to audiences on a national scale when he appeared on the 2011 season of Australia’s Got Talent.
His engaging performance style led the media to declare his performances as “Michael Jackson does magic” – and ultimately saw him coast through to the grand final, where he eventually lost out to child star Jack Vidgen.
Like others before him, Cos managed to use his time on a network program to launch a wildly successful career – albeit one that had been steadily simmering for over a decade before his break.
“I’ll never forget what it was like when no one gave a shit when I was grinding away and no one would buy a ticket – I knew that for fifteen years; how can I not be joyful now?” he posits.
“I felt like a soldier then – I knew my time was coming, but it would only happen through sheer determination and hard work.
“In 2008 alone I did six months of touring around the country, working in 48 different venues.
“It was proving extremely hard in the city territories, but then I’d go into the regional areas and sell shows – up to 500 seats even. There was a disconnect between what I was really doing, and it not being accepted at a mainstream level.
“There were gates closed, but I knew if I could get through those gates, then I would have success.”
Cos insists that contrary to the “overnight success” narrative pushed by some reality shows, he wouldn’t have been on the air had he not spent his time grafting in the field.
“It was always working – AGT was the turbo charge. Without AGT I wouldn’t be where I am today, but without my hard work, I wouldn’t have been on AGT,” he said.
“The fact I can turn this passion into a successful career is something I’ll never take for granted. “The first time I went on AGT I only had 30 seconds to do my thing.
“I never wanted to be judged – three people consider you on your art which is so brutal … but in the end, 3.1 million people watched the final – it was a really special time for me. Everything was perfect – that was the highest-rating show on TV this year.
“The hard work is not luck, the image isn’t luck – what was luck was that all those people tuned in. I couldn’t control that.”
Cos’s current tour marks ten years (excluding pandemic interruptions) since his breakout on a mass scale.
Since his AGT run, the magician has performed on both the Asian and American iterations of the ‘ … Got Talent’ program, as well as appearances on various network programs including I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here, and a winning appearance on Dancing With The Stars.
Despite these “extras” though, live shows have remained the number one priority, with his new production a showcase of fan favourites, curated to celebrate a decade in the mainstream limelight.
“I can literally name the ten effects it’s based around; ten years, ten awesome effects,” he says excitedly. “If people have seen a Cosentino show before, they’re gonna see their favourite parts.”
We close our interview by breaching one of the more taboo topics in the magic world; as one of the world’s leading craft tradesmen, what does Cos think about the more … inexplicable side of reality?
“Magicians have a long history with mediums, clairvoyants and the like … but unfortunately for us magicians, we know the tricks of the trade,” he laughs.
“A magician’s job is to make you question everything, and not see things exactly the same – I hope there’s more to us just running around and creating illusions.
“In other places though – take Asia for example – audiences see magic in a different light – they’re ok with the mystery and not knowing how everything works.
“But – I like not knowing what’s out there in the universe, I like not having explored the deep seas of the earth.”
With ten successful years in the bag and a swathe of international opportunities before him in a post-pandemic world, the sky is the limit for the kid from regional Victoria turned magic superstar.
“We’ve done the impossible – we’ve broken barriers,” he said.
“As the network said to me once, we’ve been able to make magic the hottest genre in prime time – that’s incredible, and it only gets better from there.”
Cosentino’s Decennium tour kicks off in January of next year and runs until March 4th. You can find full dates and ticket information here.