A former member of the Special Forces, turned stunt man has now forged a career in magic, and his new show has just seen him promoted to the highest level of the Magic Circle achieved by examination.
Steve Truglia is set to take The Card Shark Show, in which he exposes the sleight of hands used by gambling cheats – tricks very similar to magic – to the Royal Institution in London, next month.
The show follows gamblers and card cheats through the ages, with Truglia recreating many of the cons used throughout history. These run from the 16th century tricksters, to the Wild West and the fate of Wild Bill Hickock, to East End cheekie chappies.
During the initial run, at a venue which held about 200, the Magic Circle’s elite team of judges awarded him the Associate of the Inner Magic Circle with Silver Star. Truglia said: “It’s a really small club so it’s really quite an honour.”
The show has run for 18 performances and will now move to the venue that has 430 seats. He hopes it will run and run, touring the regions and maybe even becoming the basis for a West End show. He traces its evolution from throughout an eclectic career.
Truglia spent six years in the 21 SAS regiment in the Territorial Army, was then attached to 289 Commando and then the SBS Reserves.
The initial period was during the Cold War years. “We had a specific job, which is still subject to the Official Secrets Acts,” he said.
“I was in a peacetime army. It was like something out of a Le Carre novel; studying the habits of your enemy. It was very exciting. It’s interesting living life as a civilian then on Friday night you’re parachuting into a foreign country.”
At the same time, Truglia worked for a bank – “it was the only proper job I’ve had” – and it was during his time in the TA that he started building an interest in magic.
One of his instructors had been on the balcony during the Iranian Embassy siege. “He was a phenomenal guy. He showed us how to get out of plasticuffs, and also the use of psychological tricks. I got into magic after that.”
The team studied psychological operations: “There was a lot about misdirection, making people believe something that wasn’t true. I realised there were a lot of similarities between this and con men. How you manipulate an adversary in a military scenario and a conman tricking his mark.”
After a bit of television work, Truglia moved into working as a stunt co-ordinator in 1994, going on to work on films including Tomorrow Never Dies, Saving Private Ryan and Prince of Persia.
“A James Bond movie is a stuntman’s dream. I was in a helicopter firing a machine gun at Piers Brosnan escaping on a motorbike,” he said.
“I realised how much misdirection is in stunt co-ordinating. It’s similar to magic, the tricks we use to make people think the stunt is real. I also have a lifelong fascination with gambling cheats. I’m not one, but I do have a fascination with it.”
It was out of this fascination, and his own work on the side as a magician, that the show evolved. “As a close up magician I was using gambling cheating techniques. I was doing a party. I thought: ‘If only they knew where the tricks came from. How many people were killed over that’,” he said.
“Everything I’ve done has led me to this. The stories are great, the magic is great. I’m not revealing what magicians do, I’m revealing gambling tricks. It’s not an expose but an insight into how the gambling cheats do what they do.”
He is now limiting his stunt work and said his “main focus” is to continue running the show.