KEVIN McMahon was once “too cool” for magic.

For the top physics pupil – at two Dunfermline schools, no less – a career in academia was, so to speak, on the cards.

But while studying for his PhD examining the forensic applications of a 3D camera, he was “plucked from obscurity” to appear on Faking It in 2005.

He successfully trained and ‘faked it’ as a pro in a show watched by more than six million and everything changed in a flick of a wand.

Kevin, formerly of Kings Road, Rosyth, packed in his studies and in the last 10 years, it seems everything he’s touched has turned to, well, magic.

He’s trained with top illusionists Penn and Teller; taken first place in Edinburgh Magic Circle’s Close-Up Magic competition; become the first magician to perform at London’s famed Globe Theatre; held a Guinness World Record for biggest magic lesson; and been installed as artistic director of the Edinburgh International Magic Festival (EIMF).

And on April 15, audiences at Carnegie Hall will get to see the quality of illusions that have enthralled the likes of Sean Connery and Patrick Stewart when Kevin puts on Quantum Magic for the That’s Fife comedy festival, which starts tomorrow (Friday).

He’s excited to be returning to West Fife; having last been on the Dunfermline stage in 1997 as part of the Carnegie Youth Theatre.

He grins: “I’m so happy to be back in Dunfermline – I’ve let my friends and the people I went to school with know!

“I had a Paul Daniels set when I was young, there was one trick I could do and found out it was one of the more complicated ones.

“I played football, badminton, guitar, violin, was in a band, I never thought I would be a magician. I was probably too cool for magic!

“I was always good with my hands because of music and practising performing skills from being in a band, but I never thought a career in entertainment was on the cards.”

Kevin, a star pupil at St Columba’s and Woodmill, was studying at Heriot-Watt University when he was picked for Faking It.

He “wasn’t getting as much enjoyment” from the PhD and was looking for a new challenge when he applied.

He recalls: “I always respected Faking It because it was about being taught a skill – that’s invaluable. I just wanted to go along for the ride and do the best I could.

“When I came back, I found I couldn’t focus on my job. I had been on this rollercoaster ride, met some of the best magicians in the world and been exposed to this whole new world. I had gone to parties, met stars – my head was buzzing.

“I had been thrown over the fence for a week and I wanted a bit more. I was really hungry for it and really felt I could make a difference.

“I felt I had to make a choice but it didn’t feel difficult because maybe, for the first time in my life, I felt in control.”

And so he took the road less travelled.

From his first gig as resident magician at TGI Friday’s, he’s gone on to work with Derren Brown, taught Eddie Izzard for a movie and performed all over the world, from Russia to Dubai and the Caribbean.

Among his proudest achievements are his 2012 Guinness World Record, where he taught 1,500 people a magic trick – “watching all these people doing all the same hand motions was amazing” – and bringing Paul Daniels to the EIMF to present him with the Great Lafayette Award.

However, the dad-of-one admits that he sometimes yearns for the academic life.

He smiles: “I would love to go back and do it. I do have some regrets but I don’t think it’s affected me as a performer or who I am. It’s more for the kudos – I’ll just have to wait to be awarded an honorary one.

“Two doors down from us is a philosopher-academic and every morning I see him leaving the house cycling off to academia.

“There’s a part of me that still harks after that life. I suppose it’s a much easier life in terms of pattern and structure but it’s not for me. I love being on stage and performing.

“I aim for audience response that is so powerful and overwhelming to an illusion, where people just forget to laugh or clap because they’re so stunned. On stage you always want that.”

You can’t take the scientist out of the magician, though and Kevin takes a rigorous, deductive approach to his illusions.

He explains: “Magic is really immersive, but I still can’t answer the question why people like magic. I don’t get it – why people enjoy the process of being fooled and letting it go.

“If I see a mystery, I have to follow it, I have to know. Mystery is so important. It’s what prompts us to move forward and discover things.

“Wonder is a fundamental element. The arch-nemesis of wonder is probably Wikipedia or Google. There’s no more thought that goes into the process of exploring different possibilities.”

He’ll bring together both science and magic in ‘Quantum Magic’ ("At quantum level, objects are appearing and disappearing – that’s teleporting!"), so come prepared to be awed – the boy who was once too cool for magic tricks is set to make magic totally cool.

Kevin adds: “To be part of a show with Fred MacAulay and to be on stage with these people I’ve worked with, that’s a career highlight for me.

“I want people to come out thinking, ‘That was amazing!’ and give them a great night out.”

Quantum Magic is at the Carnegie Hall on April 15 at 8pm. For information and tickets, log on to or call the box office on 01383 602302.