Chilliwack-based magician Matt Johnson brings his “Nothing Up My Sleeves” show to Centre Stage at Surrey City Hall this Friday night (Dec. 1).

Chilliwack-based magician Matt Johnson brings his “Nothing Up My Sleeves” show to Centre Stage at Surrey City Hall this Friday night (Dec. 1).

Chilliwack magician’s signature water-tank escape can’t be performed at Surrey theatre

City hall venue managers concerned about weight of tank and ‘water that could leak on the stage’

SURREY — Matt Johnson’s magic show in Surrey won’t be quite the same as performed elsewhere.

The Chilliwack-based entertainer will not be attempting an escape from a large water tank here this Friday night (Dec. 1), after being told the contraption can’t be used at Surrey City Hall’s Centre Stage theatre, which doubles as council chambers.

The tank-escape trick was performed by Johnson on the CW Network show Penn & Teller: Fool Us last spring.

“I’ll be doing my full show (in Surrey) except for the water-tank escape,” Johnson told the Now-Leader in a phone call Thursday (Nov. 23). “I found out about this about five days ago. The (venue managers) in Surrey have made the call that they can’t have the tank in that theatre, because we’re told the stage is a hollow one, and they’re concerned about the weight of the tank and any water that could leak on the stage.”

The show is pre-written, Johnson said, so he’ll have to “extend out a couple of things, a minute here or there over the course of the show,” to make up for the 10 minutes lost.

“I’m actually thinking of playing the Penn & Teller episode with my water escape during the intermission, for anybody who wants to see it. I haven’t confirmed that with the theatre yet.”

Johnson blends urban street magic with comedy for his Nothing Up My Sleeves show, a 90-minute display of illusions, mind-reading, sleight-of-hand and audience interaction.

The U.K.-raised Johnson, who moved to Canada in 1998, has been a pro magician for more than two decades.

• READ MORE: Magician Matt Johnson’s second crack at TV fame, from July.

Earlier this year, a dream of his to perform on Britain’s Got Talent turned into a bit of a nightmare.

“I went to do Britain’s Got Talent in February with the water escape, and it was a disaster,” he lamented. “On the day of filming, in the morning, we did a rehearsal before we filmed that night, and two minutes under water, the tank cracked and exploded on stage, basically – 200 gallons of water went all over the set.”

No wonder the people at Surrey City Hall are a bit nervous.

“It was a malfunction in the old tank,” Johnson continued. “I had tried to get on the show for three years, and rehearsed for a year and a half, had done breath-holding training. I got all the way there, spent five grand to get my stuff there for the show, and then that happened. It was a real down point in my career, and in my life in general, as you can imagine.”

(STORY CONTINUES BELOW VIDEO)

Six weeks later, Johnson got a second crack at doing the trick on Penn & Teller: Fool Us, and more problems surfaced.

“I came back (to North America) with my tail between my legs, because I had no tank, so I had another tank built by a guy in Calgary, which cost me a lot more money but built sight unseen, and it was shipped to Vegas,” Johnson explained. “I got down there the day before Penn & Teller and it was too small – three inches too small all the way around. So the one you see on Penn & Teller: Fool Us is a smaller one that I jammed myself in and I basically just went for it, because it cut off my breath-holding considerably. It crushed my lungs, so I couldn’t hold my breath for any more than 30 seconds when I got in it. So we just put it on the stage and filmed it, and my guy was told to leave me in there and if I stopped moving, to get me out. As you can imagine, it was a pretty daunting experience.”

The trick of escaping from a water tank is something he’s worked on for quite some time, Johnson said.

“Doing the trick, when I first started breath-holding, I couldn’t hold for longer than 30 seconds, and now I can do four minutes,” he said. “But I’m claustrophobic, it’s very scary, and I don’t like doing it in the show, but it is something in my show now.”

He really wants another crack at doing Britain’s Got Talent, and he’s also hoping to take his act on the high seas again, after returning last week from a 10-day gig aboard a cruise ship.

“I’ve been trying for about a year and a half to get a cruise-ship agent, and it’s a really difficult industry to break into, but once you’re doing it and you’re in, you’re in,” Johnson said. “That was my first cruise with my new agent out of Florida, that’s where my agent is, and we stopped in Aruba, Costa Rica, the Panama Canal – just amazing.

“The ship I was on was quite small, only around 2,000 passengers,” he continued, “and it had a beautiful theatre, an amazing tech team and I got standing ovations for my show, which was amazing. For a fly-on, fly-off, you don’t take your full show, so my show had to fit in a suitcase. That’s kind of a new thing for me, but it was really well received.”

For the kind of theatre show he’ll do in Surrey, Johnson brings a special prop.

“It’s a plastic music box shaped like a church,” he explained. “You see it at the start of my show and it comes up at the end, and that music box used to sit on my grandmother’s fireplace before I was born. As far back as I can remember, I used to go there and wind it up and hear it play. It was kind of a magical feeling, like Santa or the Easter Bunny, and that for me was the start of the feeling of magic – not tricks, but that kind of feeling, a magical experience. That’s where it started for me, and now I’m proud to say that that church is on stage with me, and now that’s the thread of the show, which is the story of my life.”

After his grandmother’s death, Johnson inherited the music box, which was shipped here from England.

“My grandmother passed away two days before Christmas,” he said. “The music box plays ‘Silent Night,’ which is appropriate. And at the end of show, I wind it up and I make it snow in the theatre.”

In Surrey, tickets for Johnson’s Nothing Up Me Sleeves range in price from $25 to $35. For details, visit tickets.surrey.ca or call 604-501-5566. Johnson’s website is at urbandeception.com.



tom.zillich@surreynowleader.com

Like us on Facebook and follow Tom on Twitter

Just Posted

William Henry Rawlison was last seen on Sunday, June 20, 2021. (Contributed photo)
Police looking for missing White Rock senior

William Rawlison, last seen on June 20, may be driving to Kamloops

Natalie Brown and Colten Wilke star in the feature film Thunderbird, co-produced by South Surrey-raised Michael Morrison and released this month in Canada, the U.S and the U.K. (Contributed photo)
South Surrey-raised producer helps bring ‘Thunderbird’ to the screen

Michael Morrison guides B.C.-shot thriller with First Nations connection

File photo
Surrey Board of Trade vows ‘a lot of noise’ will be made about tax increases

Huberman calls for comprehensive tax review at all levels of government

2019 Red Serge Gala guests try their luck at roulette. (Simon Lau photo)
High hopes for in-person Red Serge Gala on Semiahmoo Peninsula

28th fundraiser for community safety programs set for Oct. 23 return

TEASER PHOTO ONLY - Hillcrest Drive-In's sign at the end its run in Surrey, in a photo uploaded to cinematreasures.org by hermangotlieb.
SURREY NOW & THEN: The city’s last drive-in, Hillcrest showed movies for 50 years on site turned shopping mall

‘It was a good memory, being the last drive-in in the Lower Mainland, at the time,’ says former operator Jay Daulat

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

Chilliwack secondary school’s principal is apologizing after a quote equating graduation with the end of slavery in the U.S. was included in the 2020-2021 yearbook. (Screenshot from submitted SnapChat)
B.C. student’s yearbook quote equates grad to end of slavery; principal cites editing error

Black former student ‘disgusted’ as CSS principal apologizes for what is called an editing error

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross. (Photo by Peter Versteege)
BC Liberal leadership candidate condemns ‘senseless violence’ of Okanagan church fires

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross says reconciliation isn’t about revenge for past tragedies

A coroner’s inquest will be taking place at the Capitol Theatre in Port Alberni for the next week. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Teen B.C. mom who died following police custody recalled as ‘friend to many’

Police sent Jocelyn George to hospital after intoxication had gone ‘beyond the realm’ of normal detox

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2020, file photo, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib leaves the field after an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta. Nassib on Monday, June 21, 2021, became the first active NFL player to come out as gay. Nassib announced the news on Instagram, saying he was not doing it for the attention but because “I just think that representation and visibility are so important.” (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
Nassib becomes first active NFL player to come out as gay

More than a dozen NFL players have come out as gay after their careers were over

Penticton Indian Band Chief Greg Gabriel speaks to the Sacred Hearts Catholic Church burning down early Monday morning, June 21, 2021. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Penticton band chief condemns suspicious burning of 2 Catholic churches

Both Catholic church fires are deemed suspicious, says RCMP

COVID-19 daily cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day moving average to June 17, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections drop to 90 on Sunday, 45 Monday

Pandemic spread dwindles as 77% of adults receive vaccine

By protesting uninvited in First Nations’ territories, conservationists are acting in a neocolonial or paternalistic manner, says Huu-ay-aht Chief Robert Dennis. Photo by Heather Thomson
A closer look: do Vancouver Island First Nations support the war in the woods?

First Nations/environmentalist old growth alliance uneasy, if it exists at all

Most Read