The tale of the slave who put himself in a box and posted himself to freedom
Magical Bones enjoyed an impressive sold-out run at the 2019 Edinburgh Festival Fringe – and was one show into his tour when lockdown struck.
Now at last he can pick that tour up and get back on the stage, though it is a show which has evolved in the two years since and has adapted to the times.
The essence remains the same, though – a response to the massive love of magic that we all share.
“Magic is escapism, isn’t it,” Bones says. “It allows people to feel like children. It allows you to feel this childlike sense of wonder. You forget about whatever is going on in the world just for a moment and you believe in the impossible. You believe that anything is possible and you get into that beautiful state.
“It’s like Oscar Wilde said: we enjoy being pleasantly deceived. It is one of my favourite quotes. He wasn’t talking about magic particularly obviously! But he said that the secret of life is enjoying being pleasantly deceived, and sometimes when you think of all the horrible things going on you can see what he meant and I think that’s what magic does.”
The show is called Black Magic and challenges the connotations usually associated with the term: “Black Magic is a celebration of magic but from a black perspective but I also look at the history that side of black magic and I celebrate that. It’s not something that people have really ever spoken about very much. And it’s good to be doing something new. Magic is storytelling and we’re always trying to come up with new stories and this one is a brand-new old story!”
Magical Bones takes inspiration from a remarkable man to whom the show culminates in a tribute. Henry Box Brown was a 19th-century slave from Virginia who escaped to freedom at the age of 33 in 1849 by arranging to have himself shipped inside a wooden crate to abolitionists in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
“Basically he posted himself to freedom!
“I was looking for someone that I could relate to in terms of black magic. I talked to some colleagues in magic and we researched a lot and we found out about this story. He was a former slave from Richmond and he escaped slavery by mailing himself to freedom. It was just incredible, this great idea of mailing yourself to freedom!
“He posted himself to Philadelphia and he became an abolitionist there and spoke up against slavery. And what was really interesting was that private mail didn’t really exist at that time. People didn’t think that you could send a package and that it would arrive safely and that nobody would open it on the way so the strange thing is that he became an advocate for slavery but at the same time also an advocate for private mail!
“People just didn’t realise it was possible that you could put a box on a train for 27 hours and that no one would open it.
“It’s a remarkable story. He survived through faith and belief. Human beings are amazing. We are more amazing than we give ourselves credit for but when you are fighting for your life it is incredible what you can achieve. He had a biscuit and water and faith.
“He was in a box for 27 hours being thrown around on the train and so on. There was a hole in the box for him to breathe but it was just fascinating and it’s a story that really resonated for me. He was a fugitive who found his freedom and then he found his way to the UK and invented an anti-slavery magic show. He toured around the UK for 25 years with it. It’s just an astonishing story.”
Magical Bones started his career as a professional hip-hop dancer and was given the nickname Bones because of his hard-hitting dance style. He went on to establish himself as one of the most respected figures within the UK hip-hop scene, working with some of the biggest names in the music industry including Madonna, Alicia Keys and PlanB, and is the featured dancer in the music video for Mint Royale’s number 1 smash hit single, Singin’ In the Rain.
Combining his dance skills with his magic talent is now the focus of his time, he went on to make it to the finals of 2020’s Britain’s Got Talent, star in the Impossible magic show tour and in London’s West End, feature in Sky’s TV series Around The World in 80 Tricks, appear on the CW’s Penn & Teller: Fool Us in the USA, Crackerjack on CBBC and ITV’s This Morning.
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