EVERY day when Andrew Basso heads to work, he comes face to face with death.
As the opening act in The Illusionists: Witness the Impossible, the escapologist begins the night suspended upside down over a giant tank of water, before being dropped down and padlocked inside and having to find his way out before he can no longer breathe.
“It’s a personal challenge that I always want to achieve new results and different things. It’s like climbing a higher mountain every time in The Illusionists,” he told the Mail.
Andrew is one of seven magicians who will take to the stage at Nottingham’s Royal Concert Hall when the internationally acclaimed The Illusionists arrives next week.
Along with the escapologist, the audience will also get to see Dan Sperry, the anti-conjurer; Jinger Leigh, the enchantress; Mark Kalin, the gentleman; Kevin James, the inventor; Jeff Hobson, the trickster; and Philip Escoffey, the mentalist.
“Everybody has a great career outside the show, but this is joining forces together and everybody has put their best work into something that is amazing. It really is an amazing show that really is a unique chance for people to see the best magicians. This is a highlight of my career,” he said.
Andrew’s own great career is focused in Italy, the country of his birth and the place where he plied his trade.
Like most people in his line of work, his interest in the unexplained was forged through a children’s magic kit and books which his dad found in the library in Trento.
Through studying he became fascinated by the story of Harry Houdini and the work which turned him from a pauper into an internationally successful escapologist.
“He was doing something completely different, and he was putting something important – like life – in danger to entertain people.
“Death and danger are fascinating for people, because we all wonder about it. For people watching something like this, it’s an empathetic moment. When I’m in the water, people are there with me.”
The 27-year-old has now been learning his craft for 18 years – and he has come a long way during that time.
His first foray into the world of Houdini was not a success, to say the least. He presented his dad with a long piece of rope, and asked his rather amused father to tie him to the chair.
After half an hour, he was still there.
But the Italian has had a long time to improve, and having satisfied audiences around the world with The Illusionists, it seems he has certainly stepped up to the mark since his debut.
He performs three times during Witness the Impossible, but believes his first act –an adaptation of the Chinese water torture cell made famous by Houdini – is the most impressive.
Andrew said: “When the producers called me for this amazing tour, I thought I had to play an impressive card, and do something unique in the role.
“I thought about Houdini’s most dangerous and famous escape but I tried to put it on a new level.”
In Andrew’s version of the trick, all of the sides are removed from the tank, leaving a clear view for the audience as he grapples with chains and padlocks to free himself from the cell.
And even after all this time, he still gets nervous when it comes to ‘the point of no return’, as he calls it.
“At that moment when I am hanging upside down over the tank taking my last deep breath, I look at the audience and I think ‘what the hell am I doing? Why am I not on stage doing any other kind of magic?’ But the way I feel inside when I escape and the response from the audience are priceless.
“I’m living my dream when I do my escapes. The feeling inside is something inexplicable. It’s part of me,” he said.
But his enjoyment of the show does not stop with his own acts, as he spends the time he is not performing hiding backstage to watch the other acts on a big screen.
“I’m like a kid,” he said.
His favourite moments include a stunt from Kevin James, the inventor, in which he cuts a man in half with a chainsaw. There are no boxes and nothing obscuring the trick, and Andrew said it looked ‘amazing’.
But he may be biased, as he said some of the magicians in the show are people he has looked up to and admired for years. He is working with some of his heroes.
By the time they arrive in Nottingham on Tuesday, The Illusionists will already have played to sell-out audiences across the world.
From Sydney and Dubai to Mexico City and South America, Witness the Impossible has been wowing venues with outrageous, mind-bending illusions since it first hit the road in January 2012.
Andrew said he thought magic was definitely something which still spoke to modern audiences.
Quoting Albert Einstein, he said: “The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious.
“We are fascinated by anything we cannot explain, as it takes us back to being kids again. When you’re a kid you don’t understand the rationality of things, and you can just enjoy it. You dream about it.
“This show takes grandparents back to being kids again as they suspend their disbelief. They believe in magic again. “
The Nottingham leg of the tour will mark the first time Andrew has been to England either as a performer or as a tourist. He said he was looking forward to seeing the audience as well as taking in a little of the Midlands.
The Illusionists: Witness the Impossible will be on at the Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham, on Wednesday, October 2, and Thursday, October 3.
Tickets cost from £32.50 and are available by visiting www.trch.co.uk