When Timothy Woon travels through international customs he declares his occupation as "magician".
"It always gets a laugh," says the Wellington-raised performer, in town to perform in the hit show Smoke & Mirrors. "People are always fascinated by magic, they love it."
The rock 'n' roll cabaret show is one of the headline acts in the Auckland Arts Festival, and organisers hope its high energy will get the non-theatre or gallery-going public to the festival.
Mr Woon is the only Kiwi in a cast of 12 that has travelled to Sydney, Adelaide, Melbourne and Edinburgh with the show. His routine supplies some of the circus in a production that also has an original musical score and distinct story - he cuts one person into three, makes doves and ducks disappear, and sets a cage on fire.
The tricks are the traditional sort that are out of step with modern magicians like David Blaine, but for Mr Woon that is part of their appeal.
"You don't see it anymore. And you don't see it in such a theatrical environment as well," he says.
"And I think that's what's so nice in this day and age - with so much on the internet, and everything so accessible - that you can go to a show which moves you and fascinates you."
His own love for magic began in childhood when his father would teach him simple tricks. "My cousin, who was about my age, we got into it together and we started putting on little magic shows for our parents."
Mr Woon went to the library and read books to learn new tricks, and also joined the magic society, "which wasn't particularly useful".
Apparently the old saying about magicians is true. "Everybody who works backstage on Smoke & Mirrors, they all stick to the rule - they never reveal the secrets."
Smoke & Mirrors runs most nights until Saturday, March 19 in the Spiegeltent in Aotea Square.By Nicholas Jones Email Nicholas