I performed Britain’s Got Talent’s best ever magic trick – but my final performance had unexpected problems | The Sun

MIXING magic, breakdancing and… history would seem an odd combination for any Britain’s Got Talent hopeful.

But for Richard Essien, known as Magical Bones, it proved a hit – with his tantalising tricks landing him a spot in the ITV talent show’s final.

It’s been three years since the Peckham performer’s first audition back in 2020, which saw him branded “absolutely outstanding” and “one of the best” by judges.

Richard, now 41, placed ninth in Britain’s Got Talent final but has gone on to showcase his tricks for celebrities like Anthony Joshua and even the England football team’s families.

The star, who’s currently touring with his new show Soulful Magic, reveals how the auditions really work, behind-the-scenes secrets and his odd Madonna encounter in an exclusive interview with The Sun.

'Annoying' Madonna gig

Richard’s fascination began at 10 years old when he was bought a Paul Daniels magic set and soon he was hooked on seeing spectators “smile in astonishment”.


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But before he made his name as one of Britain’s best illusionists, he worked as a breakdancer and performed alongside Madonna, Black Eyed Peas, Alicia Keys and Plan B.

Richard was the lead dancer in the music video of Mint Royale’s remix of Singing In The Rain, which went to No.1 in the UK Singles Chart in 2008 – three years after it was initially released.

His skills also bagged him celebrity gigs including performing in a surprise dance-off for Madonna’s son on his 10th birthday.

Richard recalls: “She hired some of the best break dancers in the world to compete against each other and her son chose the winner of the battle.

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Richard showcased his breakdancing and hip hop moves in the showCredit: Rex

“Unfortunately, I didn’t win but I got to the semi-finals. It was a bit annoying but it was great and I got many more private events for Madonna and other celebrities.”

While things were going well for the smooth mover, Richard feared his future in dance was “fairly limited” – believing he would only star in commercials or become a teacher.

So he decided to focus on improving his "amateur magic act", which he perfected in street performances on London’s South Bank.

'Audition restrictions'

When Richard took his show to the Edinburgh Fringe, he was approached by producers from Britain’s Got Talent who offered him a chance to audition.

Richard says: “I thought, ‘Why not? It’s the biggest show in the world’. I thought it could lead to tonnes of exposure and great opportunities.

“They asked me if I would like to audition. Millions of people audition and yet only a handful make it to the finals, semifinals or even get on the telly.”

Before showcasing their skills to judges, Richard says auditionees have to give the team “an indication” of their act and it must “fit into the framework” of the show.

Richard jokes: “If you want to burn half of the stage down they obviously won’t let you do that.”

Even then, there’s no guarantee of bagging a spot according to the star, who explains that acts still need to be “selected for an audition”.

He adds: “If they don’t like your act you may not even make it to the auditions, so it’s a lot of pressure. It’s a cool show but very scary at the same time.”

'Big risk'

Waiting to face the wrath of the judges – then fronted by Alesha Dixon, Amanda Holden, David Walliams (now replaced by Bruno Tonioli) and Simon Cowell – was tense.

Richard explains the audition lasts the whole day and he believes he was there from 7am until 10pm.

He believes “everyone” is interviewed backstage so there is always “a backstory video” in case they get through.

It was a daunting experience for Richard, who admits he was concerned about being slated on stage.

He says: “It can be nervewracking, especially when you hear the buzzers you go off. It makes you think, ‘Oh no, is that going to be me?’

“This is your profession on national TV, you’re being judged on your act and your career. That’s a big risk because it’s the biggest show in the world.

“If Simon Cowell doesn’t like your act or makes a negative comment that could be detrimental to your career, which plays on your mind.”

Before going out on stage, Richard says acts are brought out in groups of two or three, where they nervously await their moment in the spotlight.

“I heard a few buzzers before my audition and saw people coming off upset. It wasn’t the best way to enter that phase of the audition,” he says.

“You want to sense the moods of the judges, they’re human beings and your chances can be affected if they are in a good or a bad mood.”

TV edit 'not as exciting'

Seconds before he went on, Ant and Dec gave Richard a “quick brief” on where to stand, what to say and wished him luck.

Fortunately, the judges were “really impressed” with his act, which included a card trick that incorporated a backflip and a powerful story from history.

In another magic trick, Richard retold the tale of Henry 'Box' Brown, a slave from Virginia who mailed himself in a wooden box to Pennsylvania where the evil trade had been abolished.

He told the audience that "single feat is one of the greatest escape acts in history" and explained that as a free man, Henry became a magician.

Richard cited Henry as one of his inspirations and someone who proved "no matter how impossible your circumstance seems to be, there is always hope for a better day".

He was greeted with a standing ovation and the judges were amazed by his stage presence and talent.

Richard says he “couldn’t have asked for a better response” to his audition – but upon watching it back on TV, felt it failed to live up to the live performance.

He adds: “It seemed 10 times more amazing than it looked on the TV, there were great reactions but it didn’t come close to experiencing the magic in the room, which was a shame.”

Producers' input

Richard continued to mystify the judges and progressed through the rounds but the closer to the finals he got, the “more feedback” and “more input” the production team had in his act.

He says: “Ahead of the finals, you talk back and forth about the idea, think about it, present it and then they gave their opinions. Then you go back and forth again to decide what to do.”

There were additional challenges for the 2020 roster of Britain’s Got Talent because the semi-finals and finals were filmed during Covid.

It meant they had virtual audiences, which Richard explains was tricky because the acts couldn’t rely on the live crowd to “create energy” and "atmosphere".

He says: “You had to work so much harder to impress the judges because there wasn’t a live audience screaming or giving standing ovations.”

While Richard lost out in the finals to comedy singer Jon Courtenay, the exposure propelled his career to new heights and left him with a big fanbase.

He says: “Especially in my area, it felt like every five minutes someone would come up to me and say ‘Well done’. There were loads of positives from going on the show.

“I still get people come up to me on the street, even though my audition was three years ago. I think some watched me in the Britain’s Got Talent Christmas Special.”

Anthony Joshua & England team gig

Since then, Richard’s showcased his tricks before legendary magicians Penn and Teller and has been on TV shows including This Morning and BBC Breakfast.

He also landed a number of gigs for famous faces too.

“I’m always performing in front of celebrities," Richard says.

"Once I got to show Anthony Joshua a real cool magic trick before his Kubrat Pulez fight.

“I’ve done bits for Disney’s social media and have basically performed for the families of the whole England Football team.

“Before and after England games at Wembley, I would get to go out and show them some tricks.”

Richard was invited back onto the TV show that made his name for Britain's Got Talent: The Ultimate Magician last year.

He placed third, behind winner Richard Jones and runner-up Marc Spelman, and missed out on the £50,000 grand prize but still continues to showcase his skills.

Richard's currently on a nationwide tour with his new show, Magical Bones: Soulful Magic, which debuted at the Edinburgh Fringe and runs until October.

Reflecting on his career, he says: “I never could have imagined this success. I dreamed but never thought I’d be where I am and really, I feel blessed.”

Magic Bones’ Soulful Magic UK Tour 2023 is performing in theatres from now until October 21, for tickets and more information visit: www.magicalbones.com.

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