Number cruncher turned comic conjurer reveals the magical world of Charles Dickens

Ian has been a professional magician since leaving behind his career crunching numbers in 1990.

Ian has been a professional magician since leaving behind his career crunching numbers in 1990. - Credit: Archant

It’s not often you find an accountant who can make money disappear, pluck numbers from your mind and pull a rabbit from a hat.

Ian graduated with a degree in philosphy, politics and economics at Oxford.

Ian graduated with a degree in philosphy, politics and economics at Oxford. - Credit: Archant

Ok, so maybe it’s just the latter that sets Ian Keable apart from the rest.

The number-cruncher, turned comedy magician, will take a unique look at Victorian magic in his show The Secret World of Charles Dickens at the Kenneth More Theatre, in Ilford, next month.

An Oxford graduate, Ian spent his university days honing his craft on the comedy club circuit where he would regularly rub shoulders with the likes of Harry Hill, Frank Skinner and Lee Evans.

However, he found himself working as an accountant for more than a decade before finally taking a “leap of faith” to pursue his dream.

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His straight-laced look adds to the humour of his act, in which he regularly drags audience members on to stage and “accidentally” smashes their valuables before revealing the ruse.

The show, which arrives in town on February 22, combines his passion for magic and a love of literature.

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“I had always been a keen reader of Charles Dickens,” he explained.

“I discovered relatively recently that he was also an amateur conjurer, which he got into at the age of 30.

“He saw an Austrian magician and decided he would perform himself to family and friends, before taking to the stage. “I did some research and thought there might be a show in there somewhere.”

Magic is surprisingly absent from Dickens’ work, despite the disparaging appearance of a conjurer in The Old Curiosity Shop, which meant Ian trawling through up to 12,000 letters penned by the prolific author.

Ian’s extensive knowledge of Dickens led to actor Ralph Fiennes asking to pick his brains in preparation for a role as the man himself in The Invisible Woman – which is released in cinemas on February 21.

“Ralph called me in for a chat because he had heard about Dickens’ love of magic and thought he could work it into the role somehow,” said Ian.

“I talked him through it all and he was really enthused. Unfortunately, his producer put a dampener on it, but it was probably for the best having read the script. They would have had to shoehorn it in somewhere.” During his career behind a desk the 58-year-old kept his magic relatively quiet, until an appearance on TV programme New Faces made the task almost impossible.

Yet, despite ditching the career, he said he has kept the accountant look – which often provides a pleasant surprise for audiences who might not expect mind reading and sorcery on first impressions.

His act has earned him The Magic Circle’s comedy award, as well as a place as a member of The Inner Magic Circle with Gold Star – one of just 300.

Magic was an interest for Ian from a young age, as with most performers, but his time spent touring London’s comedy clubs has prepared him for a lifetime of wise guys looking to shatter the illusion. “Most people are terrified by the thought of coming up on stage, but I do a lot of corporate events too,” he said.

“When people have had a few drinks you can get a tricky customer or two, but having played the comedy clubs I’ve learned to deal with those sorts of people and the others who shout out. Sometimes audience members will come up to me after a show to test their theories, but even if they’re wrong they don’t except it. They’re convinced, so I just smile and ask them not to tell anybody.”

n Tickets for Ian’s show cost £14, or £13 for concessions. To book, call 020 8553 446 or visit To find out more about Ian, visit

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