Dynamo v David Blaine: Who is street magic’s undisputed king of the kerb?

David Blaine David Blaine

Friday, January 3, 2014
5:14 PM

Two writers put their case for their magician of choice

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When it comes to street magic, there can only be two contenders in most people’s mind - young Bradford star Dynamo and America’s finest David Blaine. But who is King of the Cards?

It’s a debate which rages in homes and offices...so we thought we’d put the two head-to-head - with supporters of both men putting forward their case.


The decision as to who wins is, of course, yours. Share your view and vote for your favourite...

THE CASE FOR DYNAMO...by Marijke Cox

When I was 10, I got the Paul Daniels magic set for my birthday.

Nothing, I thought, could better this. My own magic wand, pack of cards and a magician’s cape to boot, I was set for a life of stardom and a place in the Magic Circle.

Alas, the faddy child that I was soon grew tired of the magic set and my brief dalliance with trickery was buried.

Until one day I heard about this street magician called David Blaine.

Sleight of hand, incredible trickery, he was an illusionist who blew your mind with his tricks.

He could levitate. I was in awe.

But, like my own love affair with magic, something changed. Wowing the public on the streets, it seemed, was not enough for him.

Magic, fame, whatever it was, had gone to his head.

Now he wanted to sit in a box, in between some ice.

In interviews – most famously the one with Eamonn Holmes on GMTV – he came across as weird and, if I’m honest, more than a little arrogant.

It’s part of the act, I’m guessing. But it did nothing for him.

In my opinion, he’d gone from a man on the street - albeit an exceptionally talented one - to a man drunk on the dizzying heights of his own success.

So, my second dalliance with magic was buried with the first.

But then Dynamo emerged.

A slight, unassuming guy who, on first glance, you could easily overlook.

But his magic is without a doubt off-the-chart unbelievable.

He made me utter the embarrassing statement: “You know, I think perhaps he is actually magic…really actually magic” as, hands on head, mouth aghast, I watch in amazement as he pours hundreds of fish out of an empty bucket or turns a bottle of water into ice.

His card tricks blow your mind. His tricks defy logic. He can make the biggest sceptic believe.

But it’s not just that.

It’s him which makes compelling viewing.

Not a whiff of arrogance – if anything he comes across ever-so-slightly nervous at times – and humble, paying tribute to his family, most notably his late grandfather, for all their support.

And he’s put in some hard graft too. It took nine years to finally see his Magician Impossible series become a reality.

Celebrities love him – before he was famous he managed to blag his way backstage at Coldplay’s XY album launch where, unable to get near Chris Martin, he started doing tricks for a lady in the crowd who turned out to be the frontman’s mum and who made him perform for her son.

Needless to say, Chris Martin predicted great things for Dynamo.

But it seems not everyone is enamoured.

One critic pans the way Dynamo - real name Steven Frayne - walks away after performing a trick to a member of the public, saying that leaving them stood there aghast on their own is “annoying”.

Dynamo himself says the reason for this is to allow that person’s true reaction to come out without him watching on.

Maybe it’s a generational thing. Maybe there are those who prefer the cheesy extravagance of David Copperfield or the mysteriousness (weirdness, ahem) of David Blaine.

But Dynamo – who is likely to have credited some of his inspiration to an illusionist like Blaine – has brought magic back to the streets.

This magician has made it cool again to just let go and become lost in amazement.

And, despite his global success, it’s clear to see he hasn’t forgotten his roots, which are buried deep in Bradford.

The public loves an underdog and Dynamo, who was bullied at school and suffers from Crohn’s disease, has certainly had to fight his way to the top, with it bringing the most incredible magic that makes us believe, in an often cynical and deriding world, that anything is possible – even, sometimes, the impossible.


When I was growing up, magic meant just two words. Paul Daniels. You’d like him, but not a lot.

He and his wife “the lovely Debbie McGee” would entertain the nation back in the days when the addition of a fourth TV channel was hailed as a genuine entertainment breakthrough.

But times changed. While the diminutive magician managed to keep a certain part of the audience spellbound, a new wave of magicians threatened to, well, to put it frankly, ‘sex it all up’.

Granted, few would consider David Copperfield a sex symbol (for those who don’t remember him, he was all fake tan, open shirts and big coiffured hairdo), yet somehow he pulled supermodel Claudia Schiffer (I can only assume there was some quite simply majestic sleight of hand involved there), and the illusionist became an international star. While he was making the Statue of Liberty apparently disappear, poor old Paul and Debbie could only see their viewing figures dissolve in a puff of smoke.

And when US duo Penn & Teller arrived on our shores and made magic entertaining to a younger audience, the concept of the magician suddenly shifted in our perceptions.

All of which paved the way for David Blaine. His street magic, even viewed today, remains sometimes jaw-droppingly entertaining. He made people yelp and scream and there was something about him which made him rather intriguing.

He had the swagger, the easy confidence, and the gift of the gab. Pretentious gab for the best part, but the gab none the less.

Of course, he was horribly over earnest, and constantly teetered on disappearing up his own ego-crazed backside. But his ability to entertain and amaze with his magic was, and remains, second to none.

Granted, when he decided big showpiece stunts were the way forward and that standing in a block of ice, or dangling over the Thames in a box was a good way of displaying his talents, he rather blotted his copy book. Quite frankly, no-one gave two hoots and really just wanted him to do that trick where he got the card someone picked, but not named, to end up painted on a taxi driving past them.

And the less said about that silliness on GMTV where he daubed an eye on his hand the better (although the temptation just to bamboozle Eamonn Holmes is something which must burn within the heart and soul of millions).

He remains, however, effortlessly talented as a magician and manages to retain an image he single-handedly created.

Which brings us to our home grown man of the magical moment.

Rather than concoct his own image, Dynamo has simply taken the Blaine modus operandi – approach people on street and do clever stuff while they look on – and copied it wholesale. And if he could make out some celebs are his mate then so much the better.

Undoubtedly, he is very talented, but he’s about as original as Paul Daniels. OK, maybe that’s a little harsh, but he is simply tracing the trail blazed by Blaine.

The crowning glory of his silliness is surely when he just strolls off after performing his trick. Pourquoi, as they say over the Channel?

Blaine manages to retain a ‘cool’ image – maybe it’s just the American drawl, but you imagine in a bit of competitive woo-ing of the ladies, the Blainemeister would emerge triumphant.

In a fight, however, you’d not wager any serious money on either man.

You suspect if the two were to go mano a mano, there would be an awful lot of slapping and hair pulling before they both tried to finish the other off by pinching and delivering some particularly mean Chinese burns.

But if you had a party and you wanted someone to come and entertain you? Well, surely, it can only be David Blaine. Stroll on, Dynamo.


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