Arts & culture

Fringe for a Day

Mentalist Suhani Shah on becoming a magician at the age of six, living in the moment as a first time Fringe performer and the innate power of the mind

How would your perfect Fringe day begin? 

With a touch of routine. Typically, my mornings follow a consistent pattern. I start by engaging in a workout, enjoying a wholesome breakfast, and connecting with my family over a call. The initial half of the day is dedicated to completing work tasks. As the clock approaches 5pm, I ensure I’m prepared for my scheduled show at 5:25.

What are your favourite venues around the city for buzz – and also a bit of peace and quiet?

After my performance, you’ll usually find me at places like the Pleasance Courtyard or Assembly Gardens. These venues are nearby and offer a lively atmosphere. I often spend time there socialising with fellow artists. For moments of tranquillity, I enjoy leisurely strolls in the Meadows, finding solace in its peaceful surroundings.

Assembly Gardens

What’s your ideal run-up to a performance and how do you wind down afterwards?

Roughly an hour and a half before my scheduled showtime, I begin my preparation. I get ready at my apartment and embark on a serene 10-minute walk to Underbelly, where my venue is situated. This short stroll has a remarkably calming effect on me, setting the right tone for the upcoming performance.

I owe a debt of gratitude to Rose, my show producer from Soho Theatre and the Underbelly tech crew. Their meticulous work ensures that most aspects of the show are in place before I even arrive at the venue. Prior to the show, you can often find me engrossed in reading or sharing laughs with fellow artists in the green room. This unique experience of connecting with a diverse array of performers pre and post-show is a true hallmark of the Fringe.

Post-show, my routine continues with interacting and engaging with audience members who kindly stay back to meet me. I take the opportunity to mentally reset my performance for the next day. Spending a quiet moment alone in the green room allows me to gradually ease the lingering adrenaline rush. 

What drew you to the world of mindreading and magic at such a young age?

At the age of six, my fascination with magic and mindreading was ignited by watching a captivating magic programme on television. This experience went beyond mere entertainment – it sparked a deep desire within me to not just passively observe magic, but to become a magician myself. I managed to convince my parents of my ambition, and with their support, we embarked on the journey of creating an entire magic show. Notably, I do not come from a family background of magicians or entertainers, which meant that understanding the intricacies of the art form and developing a show took time and effort.

Initially, I began as an illusionist, focusing on larger-than-life acts that included feats like levitation and sawing people in half. I followed the traditional path of an Indian magician, complete with dazzling attire, an extensive array of props carried in two trucks, and a dedicated team of 30 individuals assisting me.

During my performances, I encountered intriguing situations where people started attributing supernatural powers to me or even believed I was a reincarnation of a higher being. These experiences acted as eye-openers, providing insight into human belief systems and the power of faith. It was through these interactions that I recognised my profound interest in psychology and human behaviour, which ultimately prompted me to shift my focus from traditional magic to mentalism.

You’re the world’s highest-subscribed mentalist. What can we expect from your Fringe show, Spellbound – and do you believe we all have the potential for mind mastery within us?

It’s truly an honour to be recognised as the world’s highest-subscribed mentalist. I’m profoundly grateful for the love and support I’ve received from people, especially considering that being a female mentalist in a predominantly male field is a unique journey. I hope this inspires more women to embrace this art form.

Spellbound is a captivating showcase that brings together my most remarkable acts, interwoven with a personal narrative that seamlessly becomes the audience’s story. The response to the show at the Fringe has been nothing short of overwhelming. 

I strongly believe that every individual possesses the potential for mind mastery, although we may not have been taught the art of harnessing this power. It’s my conviction that we hold absolute control over our minds; we simply need to learn how to wield it effectively. 

The Amazing Banana Brothers

Who is your hot ticket at this year’s Fringe? (apart from your own show, of course)

My personal picks for must-see shows this year are The Amazing Banana Brothers and HA HA HA HA HA HA HA by Julia Masli. These two performances have truly captivated me with their incredible content, and I wholeheartedly recommend them to anyone looking for exceptional experiences at the Fringe.

Tell us something we don’t know about being a Fringe performer.

Discovering the world of the Fringe as a first-time performer has been a fascinating journey for me. Here are some insights that I’ve gathered:         

Savour the Present Moment: Amid the flurry of activities, it’s essential to be present and mindful. Rushing from one show to the next might dilute the impact of each experience. I’ve found that giving myself time to absorb what I’ve witnessed before moving on to the next show enhances my appreciation for each performance.

Balancing Self-Care: The demanding schedule can take a toll, leading to ‘Fringe flu’ during the third week. It’s a reminder of the importance of maintaining physical and mental well-being. 

Growth through Connection: Engaging with fellow artists, sharing experiences, and participating in artists’ meet-ups can be immensely enriching. The Fringe provides a unique opportunity to network, learn from others, and forge connections that can have a lasting impact on one’s artistic journey.

Celebrate Variety: The Fringe celebrates diversity and variety like no other platform. The broad spectrum of shows, genres, and artistic expressions challenges preconceived notions and broadens perspectives. Embracing this diversity enriches the overall experience.

Suhani Shah performs at the Underbelly until 27th August