News / Entertainment

Master magician makes himself at home in Brunswick

Cosentino is back in town for a series of shows this month

Cosentino says he loves the street art and gritty laneways of Brunswick. 

Mark Phillips

WHEN he’s not performing sell-out shows around Australia and overseas, master illusionist Paul Cosentino likes nothing more than taking his dog for a walk in his Brunswick East neighbourhood.

Cosentino and his wife, Priscilla, bought a town house near Glenlyon Road in 2021 but because of the amount of travel they both do as performing artists, he is still discovering the new neighbourhood.

But he is effusive about what he has found so far.

“When we moved here it was during the pandemic and everything was shut and we weren’t able to look around so we’re still exploring and finding new things,” he said recently over a coffee at a venue near Sydney Road.

“It’s artsy, it’s alternative. And I like the people, I like that everyone’s individual, a lot more open minded and accepting. It’s just so cool.”

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Cosentino, who performs as just his surname, is back in his home town from another long stint of touring for a series of shows at The Palms at Crown this month.

He describes Decennium 2.0 as a “greatest hits” of his career since he first burst into national prominence as runner-up of Australia’s Got Talent in 2011.

The 90-minute show has something for everyone, he said. It combines sleight of hand magic with grand illusions, escapology, audience participation, dance, theatre and humour.

“It’s a celebration of my life in magic over the last 10 years.

“I describe the show as like a film. And what I mean by that is it’s for all ages, for families, and when you see the show the demographic is people that are five to 75 so we have to have material that appeals to all of them.

“So if you haven’t seen my show before you’re getting the best parts. If you have seen my show before, well, guess what? You’re getting the best parts also.”

Like all of his shows, Decennium 2.0 was devised in collaboration with Priscilla, a musical theatre performer and dancer who Cosentino first met on the set of Australia’s Got Talent. She is currently touring as a member of the cast of Chicago in Sydney.

“I’m still chipping away, honestly, to get magic to be as respected as let’s say being an actor is, because it’s not. That’s a constant battle.”

Cosentino was in his late-20s when he got his big break on the Seven Network talent quest.

But he was no overnight sensation, having spent 15 years  honing his craft after mastering his first magic trick when he was 12.

Growing up in Melbourne’s outer south-eastern suburbs the youngest of three boys, he was introduced to magic when his school principal mother took him to a library to find some books to learn how to read.

“I was a very shy kid, a very reluctant reader, had a lot of learning difficulties … And I came across a book with these beautiful pictures of these famous magicians and posters.

“And in the back of the book, there were magic tricks. And through this process, I learned to read and gain the skill of magic.”

His first trick was to make a 20 cent coin vanish. At 14, Cosentino won an all ages national magic competition in Adelaide.

He began a marketing degree at Monash University but abandoned it part way through to devote himself to magic and illusions full-time. By this stage he was also under the thrall of the greatest escape artist of all time, Harry Houdini, having acquired his first straitjacket at 18, an age when most people are getting their driving licence.

The next few years were a hard slog.

“There was no blueprint, there was no one to follow. I didn’t have anyone to benchmark off … it was a pretty hard path, [and] it still is.”

In 2010 he had his first taste of fame when he performed a tribute to Houdini on the centenary anniversary of the American’s visit to Melbourne by escaping from being chained to a 60kg piece of concrete while being submerged in a tank at the Melbourne Aquarium.

The following year came Australia’s Got Talent, and the year after that a prime time TV show of his own. These days Cosentino is constantly on the road with a crew of up to 14, including his older brother Adam who is his stage and tour manager, and refining his show whenever he is not performing.

But despite his heavy schedule, it’s not all work and no play for Cosentino.

Part of his daily routine is to take his French Bulldog Luna to an off-leash reserve near their Brunswick East town house. Barkly Square shopping centre is also a regular destination, partly because that’s where Pet Barn is located.

“It seems like everybody’s got dogs in Brunswick,” Cosentino said.

When Priscilla is back home, Costentino is keen for them to check out FOMO Cinemas and Rumi restaurant at East Brunswick Village, which have both just opened this year. He also loves the street art and the quirkiness of housing styles in Brunswick.

Cosentino has toured the world, published six books, and his television shows have been seen by 750 million viewers in 40 countries, but he says there is still much he would like to achieve. He dreams of one day opening a magic venue in his home town and to have magic taken seriously as an art form.

“I’m still chipping away, honestly, to get magic to be as respected as let’s say being an actor is, because it’s not. That’s a constant battle … Because we’re always breaking those stigmas of what a magician is, what they do, what magic’s like, and how beautiful it is when it’s performed and executed properly,” he said.

Cosentino will be performing four matinee and evening shows of Decennium 2.0 at The Palms at Crown on July 13 and 14. Subscribe to Brunswick Voice for your chance to win a double pass.

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