Predicting winning Lottery numbers... now that's magic
Luis de Matos made his name with illusions but, he tells our reporter, knowing how it's done doesn't matter
It's not often a man comes of age before an audience of millions, but that was what happened to Luis de Matos.
In one famous, glittering, wonderful moment in 1995, the illusionist went from being "the cute kid who does tricks" into the David Copperfield of Portugal.
It was so simple, so jaw dropping and so utterly riveting that neither journalists nor viewers could quite believe what they were watching. De Matos went on live television and successfully - as it turned out - predicted the numbers of the country's national lottery (this was after anyone else could buy a ticket).
It made front-page news in Portugal and indeed caused ripples across much of Europe. "It stopped the country," he remembers. "It was produced almost like Mission Impossible.
''It was a big moment. Of course people tried to repeat it but there is only one big impact. I knew then I was really on my way. My ambitions from childhood were becoming reality." Did he not want to just keep the lottery money for himself? He winks: "Well, that's not how it works."
And, of course, the fame that this spectacle brought made a career for him - one that he had wanted all of his life. Of course lots of little boys are interested in magic. But most of them get talked out of their dreams somewhere along the way.
Not Luis. Born in Mozambique, he received a magic book as a nine-year-old and practised assiduously.
Almost 13 years later, he secured his first TV show - the first of many - titled Isto é Magia! (This is Magic!). All this was contrary to his parents's wishes, who insisted throughout his childhood that he put aside his interest in magic and focus on a 'real' career.
Dutifully, De Matos went to college to begin work on a technical engineering course. He tried to keep in mind that this rather tedious subject would one day pay the bills, but two years into his study, he made the fateful decision that he'd rather make his career from magic.
It was a gamble that paid dividends throughout the Nineties and beyond.
In 1999, seven years after Isto é Magia!, the Academy of Magical Arts named him Magician of the Year, an award that put him in the same category as Copperfield and David Blaine.
His vast success in Portugal made him a star and he got to know football coach Jose Mourinho after he designed the opening in the stadium for Porto football club's new ground, in 2004. On the night of the opening, De Matos decided to give everyone in the audience a bag which contained a piece of blue silk.
The audience held their piece of silk aloft and right at that moment the silk vanished from everyone's hands - the trick made the Guinness Book of Records. He also predicted the result of the match in a piece of paper that was displayed in a safe above the stadium.
Spectacle and intrigue are integral parts of his act but he tells me that 'knowing' a piece of magic is a trick or understanding how it's done is entirely beside the point. "It doesn't matter if the audience knows how the trick is done. There is much more to it than knowing the secret.
''If you looked at a painting you could say, 'oh well I'm sure he used a white canvas and then used colours' - you might know the technique but that's not the art. It is about the emotion being conveyed and wilfully suspending disbelief.''
'The Illusionists' are at the Bord Gais Energy Theatre from March 14-19. For tickets visit www.bordgaisenergytheatre.ie
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