Todd the illusionist: Live from Elevation Gallery

Media playback is not supported on this device ‘Stealth is literally my name’

Every couple of years, in his living room at his home in Stanmore, north London, Todd who goes by the stage name Mysterion regales an attentive audience with a series of alluring vignettes and visual illusions.

But these “stunts” were not the work of a one-man show, but part of an experiment by the influential 1980s performance artist and mentalist.

Gigging internationally, Mysterion amazed crowds for over a decade with a series of eerie, mind-bending illusions that captivated audiences of all ages.

His audiences were drawn to his bardonic hilarity, his authority, and the delights that he unleashed by lifting up one hand and moving it around three times.

But for Mysterion the real magic was in his mastery of the devices and techniques of a tactile, virtual reality that is kept much of its secret, over the years.

Todd’s experience of immersive installations began as a 20-year-old when he discovered the US Masters of Suspension movement, a performance art movement that combined vaudeville and S-unguard moves and often used a ceiling trapeze.

“It was this big hotel with this trapeze and it used to take me several times to get down but it was a real thrill,” he recalls.

Todd as Mysterion

Todd got the bug and also discovered many other artists that used the trapeze to tell grand stories.

“I got hooked on just feeling the freedom and the energy and the lack of feeling connected to the rig or the strap,” he says.

“That was also part of the synchronicity of my time. Because my whole family had been involved in suspension I always had a room set up for both me and the family to do free trapeze performances.”

Todd’s discovery of the trapeze, and understanding of immersive installations, has helped him create the interactive game Invisible Space.

The 21-year-old game, which he is currently developing, is based on the concept of “crawling” from the television or mobile phone screen to the next screen, using the buttons as a filter for a new shape or object.

A quarter of a century on, Mysterion says that many of the tricks he taught and imitated during gigs at the height of his fame still hold up for him, despite many of the devices becoming obsolete and technical advances.

“When I came back into the limelight in the early 90s, the technologically advances came and that was a great move for me,” he says.

“But I’ve always been a believer in recreating the experience in your own environment. My visit to Daniel Pearl Gallery on the South Bank is a case in point.”

A former Bond-villain-esque stage persona for the 35-year-old David Brett Graham was transformed into a tongue-in-cheek comedic character who signed the tragic journalist’s death certificate on stage after his death in Karachi in 2002.

How did that choice emerge?

“Since Daniel [Pearl’s murder] I’ve started showing some more tragic subjects,” Todd says.

“I tend to attach that to bigger subjects that have touched my life in some way. I love those stories, I love the assassination of Gandhi or raising up the flag in Madrid after the 1992 IRA bombing.

“To me every body has its tragic story to tell. But you’ve got to find a way of applying it, and not blurring them.

“To me the humour is counter-intuitive, it turns tragedy into comedy,” he laughs.

“It was a quite easy decision for me.”

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