THE matter-of-fact way Kevin Cunliffe talks about the prospect of shooting himself dead on stage is chilling, to say the least.
But for Lancaster’s most dangerous man, dicing with death has been a way of life ever since he was born.
And on Saturday, May 5, at the Winter Gardens in Morecambe, the man nicknamed “Psycho” Kev hopes to pull off the ultimate death-defying trick.
Cunliffe will play a deadly game of Russian roulette live on stage as part of the Morecambe Variety Festival.
A spellbound crowd of people will watch as Lancaster’s answer to Derren Brown holds a loaded 9mm eight-barrel automatic revolver to his head and pulls the trigger...seven times.
Suicidal madness...or just an illusion?
Kevin says it may be an act, but one carrying a huge degree of risk.
“I always promise people that this will be different to anything they have ever seen before and it can always go wrong,” said the 27-year-old illusionist.
“There will be seven empty chambers and one live round.
“And I’m well aware that the last man to perform with a firearm at the Winter Gardens met a tragic end.”
Kevin is referring to illusionist Chung Ling Soo. Real name William Robinson; he performed Russian roulette at the Morecambe theatre nearly a century ago.
But he died in 1918 after being shot in the chest at a London theatre when a trick where he would “catch bullets in his mouth” went tragically wrong.
“Hopefully I won’t make the same mistake as he did!” said Kevin.
After what happened to Chung Ling Soo, what on earth could possibly motivate “Psycho” Kev to risk life and limb in a similar fashion?
He says it’s because performing is in his blood.
Kevin was born into a circus family. His father was an escape artist and fire eater, who also did Russian roulette...only with sticks of dynamite!
“My mum was a fire eater too, and used to walk across machetes,” he said, proudly. Aged just three weeks-old, Kevin was pictured in national newspapers lying on a bed of nails. The press dubbed him Baby Barnum.
He grew up to learn the skills of the circus trade and eventually became a magician and illusionist.
Kevin has now mastered everything from sleight-of-hand card tricks to the most graphic of stage stunts.
Some of his illusions are not for the faint-hearted. He has been known to pull strings of razor blades from down this throat while his mouth “drips with blood”.
There is little margin for error and Kevin admits he has butterflies in his stomach ahead of his show-stopping and potentially life-threatening, illusion at the Winter Gardens.
“For a long time I’ve never really got stage fright, but I am a little nervous for this show.
“Just before Christmas one of my tricks went terribly wrong.
“I put a rope around my neck. The idea was that I would fall off a gallows and in the nick of time, the noose was supposed to spill open.
“But it went pear-shaped and I ended up hanging myself.
“Thankfully one of my friends was there. The next thing I knew, I woke up in hospital.
“I’d stopped breathing four times in one night. It nearly ended my life. I was in intensive care for two weeks.
“I said I would never do this show again.”