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Britain's Got Talent winner and star of Impossible Lance Corporal Richard Jones
Since winning the 10th series of Britain's Got Talent as the first magician to win the top prize, Lance Corporal Richard Jones has gone from strength to strength. After joining the army in 2010, he spent three years with the band of the Parachute Regiment and became part of the band of the Household Cavalry in 2014. As well as juggling his army life, he is about to headline the West End show Impossible, which returns to London for a limited season at the Noel Coward Theatre ready to delight audiences once again with its dazzling magic and creative acts.
We spoke to Richard ahead of the show find out more about life post-Britain's Got Talent and to hear about how he juggles army life with the secretive world of magic...
Dom O'Hanlon: You've had quite a journey to Impossible. Was being in a West End show ever in your imagination a year ago?
Richard Jones: Yeah absolutely – I saw the show last year and I think that was their first run of it and I was really keen on being apart of it, but I never knew a year later I would be headlining it, so it's worked out really well. The army have been really flexible, they're really making it work so it's going really well.
DOH: Is it quite a lot of pressure headlining a West End show whilst juggling your army commitments?
RJ: I love to be under pressure, that's when I work best. Most acts would spend months or years preparing an act for a West End standard show, and I'm kind of doing it in a week and a half. I think that's a great thing, it means I'm really pushing every day, I'm really busy to get the best thing happening. It's a completely different atmosphere to the BGT atmosphere. Camera wise it's very different, obviously I'm not live on TV in front of the nation. It's it's own environment and it has its own set of challenges – I've been in a similar environment but never anything quite that big. I don't see it as a negative I see it as a positive, getting out there and pushing myself.
DOH: Do you collaborate on your act with other people to bounce ideas around?
RJ: Not really – just family and friends. I get a lot of my ideas from my mum, she's very creative because she works with children, so she comes up with some really amazing ideas. Lots of mini local competitions that I've done well with in the past has been because of her and her ideas. Obviously I'm trying to make sure my act appeals to the public and it worked well what I did on Britain's Got Talent, so I'm trying to keep it similar to that. It's very personal to me, the army side of it, so I'm going to try and keep it close to my personal life, which is what people voted for.
DOH: Has magic always been part of your life from a young age?
RJ: I was always fascinated by other magicians – I love Derren Brown, and David Copperfield was always a massive inspiration. My parents used to always take me to magic shows, it wasn't probably until the army that I took to performing, and that was because I was away from home and facing lots of challenges, the hard days, and it gave me something to focus on. About six years ago I got taken up on stage in a big magic show in the West End. I was sat looking out into the huge audience and I remember that was a key part of my life, it was really inspiring to look out and see the roles reversed. After that I started to push myself and really start performing. I knew with Britain's Got Talent if I could get through the producers round then the first televised round would be in front of a huge audience, so I thought I'd try and see how big an audience I could get. I did the first audition and it went really well, I went home happy and I didn't really expect to get much further. It got bigger and bigger and it progressed until I was doing magic in front of millions. I saw Impossible last year and I remember being really impressed, and thinking I wanted to get involved and perform with those guys.
DOH: You must have felt quite honoured that after so many seasons you were the first magician to have won? Finally a human won and not a dog!
RJ: Yeah – I know dogs have won loads of times which is cool. It's a shame a magician had never won before, but it's great to be the first one. For magicians to be doing well means everyone is going to do well in the community. People will see magicians, and it'll be on their mind, so when they have a party they'll get a magician. So the whole magic community will do well out of it – it's great publicity for everyone.
DOH: Is magic something that's difficult to get involved with at a ground level, is it hard to be an amateur magician?
RJ: Obviously it's a very secretive society, especially places like The Magic Circle. It's very difficult to become a member, so it's pretty big news and people don't know much about it until they're in it. Most people's stories are how they really enjoyed magic as a child and that's how they got into it, mine is a little bit different, which is maybe what makes me stand out slightly. I didn't really start performing magic until I joined the army about six years ago – I've been sort of fast tracked through. The audiences I've had have always been tough audiences so I've always had to be the top of my game and be ready at a moments notice to change if things aren't working. It made BGT a lot easier – people said I looked relaxed and comfortable on camera – I didn't like to look at it as being nervous, instead I looked at it as being relaxed and excited. It wasn't too nerve-racking because I was used to that pressure. I'm a soldier doing magic, I've combined my own story to magic to approach it to another way. I've combined the training I've had in the army with the magic stuff that I've learnt, which makes my take on magic a little bit more unique and unusual than if I was just a magician performing all of the time.
DOH: Obviously reality TV can also have its drawbacks. Do you have any regrets from your time with Britain's Got Talent?
RJ: It was a bizarre one because it all happened so quickly. It's a shame that I didn't get to enjoy the moment so much because you're always under so much pressure wondering what's going to happen next. I'd love to go back in time knowing that I was going to win so I could enjoy every moment of it. It's a shame that when it's over you think what an amazing experience it's been but it goes by so quick. The fact it's a competition sort of ruins your fun – I never looked at is as a competition really because I was never bothered about winning, I wanted to have fun and perform for big crowds. It's mainly positive – I really enjoyed every moment.
DOH: Have you found any crossover between the two very different areas of your life?
RJ: Absolutely! I've had training in the army that helps me achieve me certain things within magic. The most interesting thing is the mind set – the army builds you up so that you're almost ready for anything. Combat training, they break you down and build you up stronger than you ever were, so physically and mentally you're prepared for anything. I incorporated my military training lifestyle to make sure my magic was tip top. Psychologically it made me more focused, I've had training that means I can read people very well, there's always things subtly going on in any magic show that you might not notice, so you're always on the ball, on the look out for the right people, predicting what they're going to do how they're going to react, that sort of thing. I've got very good at judging people from my training.
DOH: What are you looking forward to most about Impossible in the West End?
RJ: Being alongside all the other magicians, performing to big audiences alongside those guys. I'm looking forward to the closing every night when you go out and take that bow. I'm also looking forward to meeting a lot of the crowd as well, hopefully I'll get a chance to say hello to them. That's probably been the most positive part of the experience so far – having people come up to you and saying hello.
DOH: Finally, where do you see yourself in five years? A military magician?
At the moment it's working really well, the army is giving me time to perform. I'd love to be headlining my own shows sometime, and also some more TV work.