Riveting Riffs Logo One Nikola Arkane - A Little Bit of Magic from Belfast, Ireland
Nikola Arkane Photo One A

We suppose the place to begin when interviewing someone with a bit of mystique, a lot of charm and with heavy doses of magic is to talk about her name and that is where we started with Nikola Arkane, a magician from Belfast, Ireland. Within the first few minutes of the conversation she draws you in with her wit, her easy laughter and the passion that she so obviously has for her chosen profession.

“My birth name was Nicola and that is the way my mum spelled it. It is quite a controversial name in Ireland, because it can be spelled Nichola, so a lot of people here in Ireland try to spell it that way and I don’t like that. When I was coming up with my stage name, I wanted to keep it as Nicola, because it is an unusual name and not very many people have it. My mum also gave me the name Nicola, because I was a December baby born on December 21st. My mum named me Nicola after Saint Nicholas.

Nikola Arkane Photo TwoArkane came about in a strange way too. I needed to have a stage name and I wanted my name to represent storytelling, because I’m Irish (Oh and we can tell you this lady can weave a story and pull you in waiting to find out what happens next!). I wanted something like Irish folklore or something archaic. My boyfriend who is also a magician is into comics and one day we were talking about comics and he told me about Swamp Thing, which is one of his favorite comics. There is a character in there called Dr. Arcane. I thought it was a really interesting name and so I wrote my name as Nikola Arcane. I thought if I was changing my name Nicola to Nikola, I thought I would change Arcane to Arkane. It just fit together. That is the story behind my current stage name. Perhaps one day once I get everything sorted it will be my proper name,” she explains.

As for the family she grew up she says, “There was just me and an older sister Lisa. We were quite a compact family. My parents were in a mixed marriage. My dad was brought up in a Protestant family and my mum was brought up in a Catholic / Protestant family.

My mum and dad decided against christening my sister and I, because back in the sixties and seventies when they were growing up religion and politics here was a big thing. They didn’t want my sister and I to be brought up into that mess, so they tried to keep us away from religion and just brought us up normal. I am so grateful for that, especially now when I am traveling the world and meeting different people. I don’t prejudge people and I am very open minded.

My mum was an IT consultant and a computer programmer, but she is responsible for my artistic nature, because she has been an artist for her whole life. Before she became a computer programmer she used to paint and draw quite a lot. No one ever had magic in the family. I did everything different. No one in the family got a degree and I was the first person to go and get a degree and it was in drama.

I am very grateful, because my parents have been so supportive of me. There are so many of my friends who wanted to be creative or to go into creative industries and their parents were not supportive.”

Nikola Arkane credits her training as an actress for contributing to her success as a magician, “I don’t believe that I would be the magician that I am without being the actress that I was. I use my theatrical knowledge every day. You get a degree in drama and in theater and nothing really happens right away. You put all of this work into it and boom you are in the real world and there is no work.  Nine years later and now that I am a magician, but I am using theatrical stuff every day.

I honestly believe no matter what kind of a creative industry you are in, whether you are a musician, an actress, a clown or a comedian that theater and drama really helps you.  It helps build your character and it helps to connect you with the audience. It allows you to be present on stage. I have found a lot of performers who do not have an acting background don’t know what it means to be present on stage. When someone is present on stage they are really there. They are really engaging their audience.”

Nikola Arkane interest in magic was first piqued when she was asked to participate in a well-known illusion called the Bow-Staff with two magicians known as The Twins (the whole thing sounds scary to us!).

“When I auditioned to be in that illusion I was presented with this box that I had to get into, but I had no idea how to do that (or how to get out we think!). It is funny with magic even directors sometimes don’t know how the illusion works, so they give you an hour and say just play with it and see what you can do. The illusion is a box with steps and a person gets into the box. The box is shrunk completely, and it is pushed open, so you can see through the box. You can see the person’s hands all the way through and then when the box is shrunk the hands disappear and then the person disappears. When the box is restored not only does the person come out, but someone else does too and I was that person,” she recalls.

Continuing she says, “When I was doing the show there was another magician named Rafael and he is from Belgium. At one point in the show he was a vampire and thereafter he sawed a lady in half. Being a part of that show and being able to work with the other performers and watch them I was blown away. It was ten times better than acting.

I thought I would learn a magic card trick and I would show Rafael the trick. When he told me, it was amazing I just had to keep on performing magic after that.”

Yes, but what about the box trick? You are here, so it worked or were you taller before?

“It is interesting you should say that, I have done about thirty different illusions during my time as  box jumper, all of the illusions that have swords, blades or anything that is sharp or appears to be sharp they are dangerous. Illusionists and magicians who work with illusions are masters of timing, but sometimes timing can go wrong and if it goes wrong something can go wrong in the illusion. I have been smacked in the head with a sword and I shed blood. I was also trapped in an illusion and I had to stay calm for a good twenty minutes. I was taken off stage and I was taken out of it. It had just broken. A lot of illusions aren’t made very well, because sadly a lot of them are copies. Sometimes you are working with props that are not the best quality and sometimes things go wrong. One of the illusions that I did was a sword box. I was in a tiny box and sixteen swords were put into it. Once when I was in when that illusion it was being performed in a tent. It was raining when I was in the box doing the illusion and the stage got covered in water. The illusion started sliding off the stage towards the audience,” says Nikola Arkane.

Okay, enough of that, let’s move on to happier memories.

Actually, we got a little bit ahead of ourselves, because way back when Nikola Arkane was a little girl and peeking over top of the cereal box, she was watching the Sooty Show. Sooty was a little bear who would wave a magic wand and perform magic. She admits she was smitten with Sooty. Tom Stone if you are reading this watch out for Sooty!

Although, Nikola Arkane performs closeup magic for adults, she still performs magic for children, which is how her career really began.

“The first show that I did was called The Tour with a Twist. The company that put me in that show was a theater children’s company that incorporated magic into every production. He was a magician and his goal was to use magic to entertain children. Doing that show made me realize I really enjoyed working with kids. I also stage managed a production of Romeo and Juliette for children and during that time when I was getting my degree, I realized I enjoyed working with children.

The first magic show I did for children was a party and it was a very unique situation. The mother led me into the room, and she closed the door behind me and left me in the room with thirty kids (Somebody reading this just fainted). I realized that not every party was like that and not every show would be like that. After doing the first few shows I realized I really liked working with kids. There is nothing nicer and they are the most honest audience you can get. That is really good for magic. If you are performing a magic trick and if people can see how you are doing, then you need to do better. Your job is to make the illusion real. If the kids see something, they are going to tell you. In the first three or four years I got really good at doing magic, because I worked with children. It is funny, because there are magicians out there who say, I don’t work with children and I think they are really missing out on something. It really improves your magic. It improves your patience, your timing and it also improves how you manage your props and show,” she says. Nikola Arkane Photo Three

To illustrate the latter point she relates one children’s show for special needs children when an excitable little boy ran up, prior to the show and punched the main prop right off of the table and how she had to quickly think about what she was going to do now that she could not use that prop.

“That experience taught me you have to be prepared for literally everything. You may not be okay with what happens, but you need to be prepared. Also, you need to be prepared to move on with your show regardless of what happens. Working with children you find out a lot about yourself and you learn a lot as a performer,” says Nikola Arkane.

Who is Fizz Whizz Pop and where did she come from?

“Fizz Whizz Pop is a big exaggeration of me. I am a massive David Bowie fan. I love his work and I love his music, but I also loved his attitude towards performing and his enthusiasm for original work. When I first discovered that there were documentaries about him, I watched nearly everyone

His character Ziggy Stardust was an entity that came into being when he walked onto stage. When he walked on stage. It just took over and then when he walked off stage, he was himself again. I relate Fizz Whizz Pop to that. It is really strange, because before I go into my magic show I will sit in my car and rest. As soon as I enter that room and get ready for the show it is like a switch. I become this weird, funny and magical being. The only way I can relate it to you is how David Bowie explained becoming Ziggy Stardust.

I think kids relate to Fizz Whizz Pop, because I am totally crazy. I get their attention right away. I don’t give them the time to even think. I just start and become this person and I think that is what David Bowie did with the world. When he took the stage, he didn’t care what people thought. When David Bowie died, I dyed my hair as a tribute to him. My fringe was blue, and my hair was bright red and it took months to come out. I loved David Bowie so much that he was worth it.

I still perform for children and I have always said, as long as I enjoy it, I will always perform for children. For some reason this character that I created when I perform, Fizz Whizz Pop kids really connect with her and they giggle, and they laugh. I think I know a bit of what it is, I treat them as people. I don’t see kids as kids, I see them as little people. They deserve the same respect as an adult, and they deserve the same attention as an adult. I love performing for children, but right now my focus the last couple of years has been to move slowly into making a name for myself in the adult magic world. I have been fascinated with closeup magic throughout my career, even when I was performing for kids. I absolutely love card magic and coin magic, but I never got the opportunity to perform it. The longer that I didn’t perform it the more afraid I was of taking that leap to do it.

Women are treated differently in magic and maybe it has more to do with society. When I first started, I began performing all kinds of magic and I was performing closeup in local bars and things like that. The response that I got was absolutely shocking. I would perform a magic trick at a table and afterwards a guy would try to pick me up. It was really bizarre, and it really put me off of performing for adults.

I realized about two years ago that I have certain goals that I want to accomplish, and I realized I didn’t want to do them with Fizz Whizz Pop, so I needed to push myself.

Closeup magic is normally done at a table. It is about magic right there in their hands, they are seeing it and they are feeling it.

For some reason in the beginning closeup felt like an alien entity and not like a stage performance. Over the years and in developing my show for The Magic Castle (she performed there in the fall of 2019) I realized you can be even more theatrical in closeup magic. They can see your face and the magic happening on the table. It is like a miniature show and it is far more exciting than I ever thought it could be to have an audience that close to you when you are performing miracles.”

You know how comedians always seem to have hecklers in the audience, well apparently magicians do as well.

“Oh yes. During one of the very first magic shows that I performed for children I had a child heckle me, so badly, because he didn’t believe in magic. He turned his back and he said I refuse to watch you, because my mom and dad told me not to believe in magic, as it is not real. What is funny is it got to the stage where he was annoying the other kids and they told him to leave the room,” she says.

Nikola Arkane Photo FourNikola Arkane’s experience with children led her to write a book about magic called Becoming Fizz Wizz Pop.

“I wrote my book in 2019. Other magicians started asking me questions about performing magic for children. They were asking basic questions like how do you keep the attention of kids? I realized there was an opportunity to create a book that was not just about tricks. There were not a lot of books that explained the process of how you become a magician and how you create a show designed for a certain audience. How you create your show and how you hold the attention of children. I thought I had a lot of experience doing this, because of the stage shows that I have done and in creating Fizz Wizz Pop. I started writing down the questions that other magicians asked me. I sent a few pages to a friend of mine who said it was really good and that friend encouraged me to turn it into something (more). From March until July last year (2019) it turned into writing a book project,” she explains.

You do not just go to magic school and learn how to do more magic tricks when you want to change your show, many people do not realize that a lot of magicians develop their own tricks.

“I refer to my tricks as effects. Magic has been around for so many years and there are so many different versions of effects. We have a big history of magic to look back on and to explore. There are certain ways of doing tricks. What happens in the magic industry is magicians or want to be magicians see a magician perform a trick one way and they are inspired to do it the same way. There is a saying ‘imitation is the best form of flattery,’ and it is not. I do not think it is flattering at all to copy someone. When I see somebody perform a magic trick that inspires me, I think I want to perform that effect, but not the way they performed it. I go to the heart of why I enjoyed it and why I find it magical. When I create something, I get the prop or the effect and sometimes I let it sit and sometimes I play around with it. Why would I be performing this and what would I do with it?

Coming up with your own way to do magic is so joyful. I am so proud when I invent something myself. We see magicians sawing a lady in half, but the actual beauty is not that they saw a lady in half, but why do they saw a lady in half. If a performer can get across how, when, where and why, as well as doing it, that is how you make something original.

Nikola Arkane met her boyfriend Tom Stone, who naturally is also a magician, when she attended a convention for closeup magic. Dare we say it was a magical experience when they met?

“Tom brought me up on stage and he didn’t realize I was a magician, he just picked me to come up on stage. After that performance we started talking. I explained that I was afraid of performing closeup magic, but that I really wanted to do more performances. He told me he was organizing a summer school in Sweden. It was like a university that I should attend. I would learn more about the art of magic and performance. I hopped over to Sweden and for a full five days I got to hang around and to study with twenty magicians from around the world. I learned how to make props and I got to make my own magic wand from scratch. I also learned how to use machinery and tools to create magic.

I started working on a lot of magic and putting videos up online and magicians from around the world started seeing me. I was invited to Norway to perform at Davidos Magic Club.

One thing led to another and along the way Tom Stone invited Nikola Arkane to be his guest at The Magic Castle in Los Angeles, a world-renowned magic venue. He encouraged her to try and get a booking for herself at The Magic Castle.

“I asked a friend if I could use their space to try out my act. I invited an audience of about thirty people who are not magicians. I had my closeup magic filmed and I sent it off to Jack Goldfinger at The Magic Castle and who books the acts. I thought at first, he would never accept this little girl from Belfast performing magic. Just when I had given up on getting a response, he got back to me and said we would love to have you,” and in the fall of 2019 Riveting Riffs Magazine just narrowly missed being able to see Nikola Arkane perform her magic, when we were in Los Angeles.  

There is a lot more to Nikola Arkane’s journey down this magical road, but you will just have to keep reading our magazine, because we suspect one day she will be back for a second visit with us. You can follow Nikola Arkane on Instagram. You can also follow the adventures of Fizz Wizz Pop here. Nikola Arkane’s Youtube channel is here, where you can watch her perform some of her magic.     Return to Our Front Page

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This interview by Joe Montague  published June 28th, 2020 is protected by copyright © and is the property of Riveting Riffs Magazine All Rights Reserved.  All photos are the the property of  Nikola Arkane unless otherwise noted and all  are protected by copyright © All Rights Reserved. This interview may not be reproduced in print or on the internet or through any other means without the written permission of Riveting Riffs Magazine.