Magician & escapologist ‘Rua’ reveals real secret to phenomenal success

A Dublin magician who suffered second and third degree burns after a stage show went horrifically wrong has pulled off his greatest trick by defying his doctors to become one of Ireland’s hottest new stage acts.

Paul Gleeson from Monkstown started his career as a fire performer and was just 18 years old when a freak on-stage accident almost cost him his life.

The shirt he was wearing that night went up in flames and the horrifying scene became worse when an audience member tried to help by dousing him with beer.

“I was turned away from the first hospital because the burns on my chest looked superficial. The situation though was a whole lot worse than how it looked,” Paul recalled.

“I went to another hospital who transferred me to the burns unit in St. James’s Hospital. Had I just gone home my body would have gone into shock and I would have died the burns were so severe” he added.

Paul suffered agonising second and third degree burns across his chest and a painful road to recovery, with doctors advising him to avoid even light exercise for fear that it would reopen his wounds.

“Because of the location of the burns between the two muscles on my chest I had to keep the scar as flat as possible and I had to wear a special vest like a wet suit with silicon pads to push the scaring down. I couldn’t risk building up muscle,” said Paul.

Twelve years on Paul is now more commonly known by his stage name “Rua” and has become one of the most entertaining magicians, illusionists and escapologists in Ireland with his own TV show, sell-out live shows and plaudits aplenty.

His most famous acts include escaping from a straight-jacket, handcuffs and chains before being pulled apart by two cars, escaping from the boot of a car before it was crushed into boxed steel and escaping from an assortment of intricate bindings before a suspended piano was dropped upon him.

They say that a good magician never reveals his tricks but Paul has a unique story to tell about how discovering his love of exercise and maintaining his daily workout routine at FLYEfit have helped him to climb to the top of his career.

“Regaining my confidence after such a horrific experience was the first challenge. I had a big scar across my chest. Taking off my shirt where people could see the scar,

especially on stage, was not something my ego could handle,” said Paul.

“Going to the gym helped me to overcome that. My doctors told me not to do it in case I built muscle and opened up the wounds but I pulled the opposite way and my visits to the gym slowly helped me to rebuild my life and career,” he added.

“I found that exercise helped to take a lot of the pain away. Of course it was painful but I regained my confidence and strength. It’s a horrible thing to get such a big burn on such a prominent part of the body and I did suffer trauma about my body image,” he continued.

“But in my head I had an image of what I wanted my body to look like. I began to realise how my chest and shoulders move and I trained through the pain to take ownership of it and to discover my passion for magic, escapology and illusion,” said Paul.

“To be an escapologist you have to be in good shape. You need to be fit and flexible. And then there’s TV. The camera really does add ten pounds. That and pizza, so you can’t go on TV with a belly hanging out. There’s no illusion about what you see when you see me on TV, it’s the product of all that hard work in the gym,” he quipped.

Paul starts each and every day with a 90 minute exercise routine at his local FLYEfit gym to keep himself fit and flexible but explains that this ritual has also become an important form or meditation and reflection.

“My medication is going to the gym. I don’t like starting a day without my 90 minute exercise routine which includes stretching exercises and strength and conditioning work. I step that up when I need to lose body fat for TV work. I’m a huge fitness nut and I love to train and to stay in shape,” said Paul.

Paul has brought this discipline to his stage shows and uses the exercises he has learned to destress, to relieve any anxiety and to loosen up before the curtain goes up. “It gets the blood flowing, releases all those good endorphins and allows me to take to the stage on a high,” he explained.

Twelve years on from that horrific freak accident Paul is looking to a bright future on the international stage.

“I’m travelling to New York in June to work on a TV pilot that will be pitched to a number of networks. I’m also in talks about doing a documentary on BCC 2 and I’m more than busy on the home front. Things are going really well and I’m a long way from where I was twelve years ago,” he said.