Launceston has the chance to see one of its young guns create magic on stage. Arts writer MARY MACHEN asks Bodane Hatten to put his cards on the table.
'`TAKE a card, any card.
"Look at it and memorise it. Then put it back into the deck. Cut the deck."
I do as I'm asked and memorise the three of clubs.
I cut the deck, and sure as eggs, it's the three of clubs.
"How the heck?" I think aloud.
Then I'm invited to name my favourite card.
"Queen of hearts," I reply.
It's located in the pack. I am then offered the deck to shuffle, which in turn earns a compliment as a "nice overhand shuffle, perfect because, basically, it messes up the pack well".
I hand back the cards, they're reshuffled and I'm dealt a card - the queen of hearts.
It's magic to watch.
Deft, slick, without a pause in conversation, Bodane Hatten has me mesmerised. His tricks are as fascinating as much as they are frustrating.
"It's all in the rhythm, there's a distinct rhythm," Hatten explains.
"Quickness is not important, every action has to have a natural reaction, there can be no sharp movements.
"Just think about it, if you are gambling, say playing poker and you make a sudden movement, everyone at the table notices, but if you deal the cards at a steady pace others will not see any sleight of hand."
Hatten is a young gun illusionist who hails from Hobart, but envisages Las Vegas as his destiny.
And by sheer luck, Launceston is also in his sights thanks to Encore Theatre Company trying its hand at being a production company and booking Hatten's latest show, Deception, for a one-night stand at the Princess Theatre next month.
Deception has already wowed audiences in Hobart as did his previous show Underground Magic, and Hatten has also delivered a successful two-year season at Dracula's on the Gold Coast in between.
Hatten says his shows are built around intrigue, developed out of a curiosity in the mechanics of cards and the ingenuity behind magic.
"Sleight of hand offers the same sense of intrigue as when someone says to you `I've got a secret'," the 22-year-old says.
"And there's a childish sense of wonder you get with magic."
Hatten has become card-sharp through multiple hours of practice.
"I've been studying the sleight of hand professionals like Charlie Miller for almost 10 years," he says.
"I'm like a singer trying to find the perfect piece of music, I'm always trying to find where my strengths are and find those pieces that I can really make my own.
"I enjoy the creation side of it more I think than performing in front of an audience.
"I really enjoy going into a room with a prop and playing with it until I create an idea how to use it and perfect it."
Hatten also references two books - The Magician and the Cardsharp by Karl Johnson and The Expert at the Card Table, credited to S. W. Erdnaze, for sparking his interest in card manipulation.
"The most books written in the world are about magic - there are books about the apparatus, the practicality, the theory of how to build a trick, how to use it," he says.
"The big tip is to practice how to shuffle the deck.
"It's nothing to do with the individual cards, it's all in the feel of the cards, the skill is in the shuffle."
While most card-playing punters use the overhand shuffle, Hatten explains that magicians favour the faro shuffle.
Also known as the weave, riffle or dovetail shuffle, the faro is a method of shuffling playing cards whereby the deck is split into equal halves of 26 cards that are then interwoven perfectly.
A perfect faro shuffle, where the cards are perfectly alternated, is considered one of the most difficult sleights of card manipulation.
While he acknowledges Dynamo (Steve Frayne) and America's Criss Angel, two illusionists who regularly star on television, Hatten prefers to dip his magician's hat to earlier maestros of the craft.
"To me magic happens in front of you, spontaneously - I like the style of Miller, Max Malini, Houdini, and Hofzinser from early last century," he says.
"It's all about misdirection, sleight of hand, psychology.
"Back in the time of vaudeville you could make your living repeating a 20-minute act, but I don't like repeating the same formula."
Hatten also likes to dress the part - tails and a bow tie.
"Contemporary magicians may scoff at being seen in tails," he says.
"But the classic look fits with my tricks."
When urged to divulge his best trick, Hatten demurs.
"You'll have to come to the show to find that out." he says, while proceeding to demonstrate the "holy grail" of card manoeuvres - the deal where the second card is dealt down to make it look like it came off the top of the deck.
"People spend their entire life perfecting this," he confides.
And what's his response to sceptics in the audience?
"A lot of people come to catch you out, to prove you wrong, which is a shame," he says.
"I don't mind because my show is designed to fill a lot of niches, it's an amalgamation of different techniques, ideas, so hopefully there is entertainment enough for everyone, for all ages [above 10].
"If you don't like sleight of hand, you like the illusion - if you don't like the illusion, you like the dancing girls.
"In truth, I never go on stage expecting to fool anybody with what I do.
" It demeans what you are trying to convey, which is that magic is beautiful."
If he continues to play his hand right, Hatten has hopes of striking it lucky with his show through a residency at a casino, nightclub or theatre.
"I visualise performing four or five times a week and refreshing the tricks and illusions every three or four months," Hatten explains.
To score a gig in Las Vegas would be "awesome".
It's a magic carpet ride that has already begun.
After Deception in Launceston, he has a role in the musical Legally Blonde, which hits the stage in Hobart in August.
And he's also well down the road of creating a show for next year - Magic Morality and Mortality.
"Yes, I'm working on perfecting the most lethal trick in the book - the bullet catch," Hatten says.
"If I get it right, I'll be the only magician in Australia to do it."
While it has claimed the lives of more than a dozen magicians, Hatten seems unfazed by the danger.
He has already discussed it with police.
The trick requires a firearm expert to fire a bullet, which Hatten will attempt to catch with his teeth.
Before that, the expert will have fired a bullet through a target, usually a pane of glass, which should shatter to prove to the audience that the bullet is real.
I'll have to see it to believe it.