The illusory life of magician Esme Levante
Jumping from a high diving board in handcuffs and chains or escaping from a padlocked trunk was not the usual pathway for a young woman in the 1930s and 40s. But for Esme Levante, escapologist, magician and cabaret artist, it was her way of life.
As the daughter of one of Australia’s most accomplished magicians, the Great Levante, and his performer wife Gladys Cole, Esme was on stage from the age of five. For decades her career has been overshadowed by her more famous father, but hidden away in the archives is a story of talent and tenacity, and a woman who carved out her own distinct style in the masculine world of magic performance last century.
Claudia Funder, research coordinator Arts Centre Melbourne
Kent Blackmore, magic historian and author of “Levante- his life, no illusion”
Dr John Zubrzycki, author and 2021 Merewether Fellow at the State Library of NSW
Maxwell Hunt, Esme Levante’s son
John Newman, co-founder of Newman Entertainment, and performer with “How’s Tricks”
Sue-Anne Webster, magician
Readings by: Nicola Fern (Esme), Georgia Power, Tim Callanan, Joanna Crothers, Patrick Stokes, Christian Price, Matthew Crawford, Michael Cathcart
Extract of Esme Levante at the Malvern’s Magicians Convention, June 27 1938, Copyright Reuters/British Pathe, UK
Extract of Esme Levante performing in La piste aux etoiles, March 9 1960, Copyright Institute national de l’audiovisuel, France
This program was produced with the assistance of the 2021 Frank Van Straten Fellowship at the Arts Centre Melbourne
CLICK HERE TO LISTEN – Duration: 28min 37sec