Master illusionist will be a Brighton Festival highlight

Performing his first UK show in something like six years, world-renowned illusionist Scott Silven is certain to astound.
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Direct from New York, Scottish-born Scott brings his show Wonders to the Brighton Festival, a show in which he promises an electrifying journey through the extraordinary, inviting audiences to discover the power of wonder in their lives (Theatre Royal Brighton, May 8-12). Tickets on

“There is this innate desire within all of us to experience wonder,” Scott says. “It is something that is in our DNA and I find that really fascinating. When you look back at the way we have always existed, the stories we share are all connected to that sense of wonder. I think that the lives we have are amazing enough. It is amazing that we exist and that we get to experience all the joys of our existence but then you can tap into something more.” As for what illusion actually is: “There is a whole branch of the mystery arts in terms of what illusion is that will probably make people think of Las Vegas and David Copperfield or the guy down the pub doing card tricks but what I do is more related to mentalism where you are crafting something with that person’s thoughts and memories rather than using strange props.”

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Scott has been based in New York for close to a decade now: “When I go back to Scotland my family don't understand me and I don't understand them! But I grew up pretty close to Glasgow, in the lowlands of Scotland and it's a place that's full of myth and mystery. It's just part of the identity there and I loved exploring all those landscapes and myths. But really my catalyst was my granddad taught me a really simple magic trick.”

Scott Silven (Pic by Alice Boreas)Scott Silven (Pic by Alice Boreas)
Scott Silven (Pic by Alice Boreas)

Scott signed a coin which his grandfather then had in his hand. Then suddenly it disappeared. Suddenly it was in a matchbox. Scott admits the explanation was pretty disappointing when he asked it: “But it was one of those tricks that he had learned in his army days and that was enough to get me going in terms of taking the everyday and making something really impossible from it.

“When I was 13, I used to get these magic magazines delivered to my house in Scotland from the States and in one of these was an advertisement for a hypnosis course in Milan. I thought to myself at the time that that was the next step but I knew at 13 I wouldn't be allowed to go. So I didn't tell my mum. I saved up my pocket money and got the bus from Glasgow and went down to London and then went on down to Milan and had a pretty intense weekend course there.” His family thought he was on a school trip, and Scott confesses that it was only during a media interview they discovered he wasn't: “But that was the opening for me for a deeper form of illusion,” he explains, and from there his act has evolved into the mentalism it is now. He doesn't use hypnotism. Instead he uses people's memories and notions and crafts something from them. It is not so much control of their minds but allowing them to tap into certain emotions and memories and “allowing them to experience something they had perhaps not experienced before.”

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