WHEN he was about 10, Paul Newton was bought a magic set by his parents.

Like many little boys he spent hours pouring over the Paul Daniels tricks, figuring out how to perform them and staging shows for his friends and family.

But as the tricks became easier to him, instead of losing interest, young Paul wanted more.

Now 31, he's been called Dorset's answer to Derren Brown and is stunning audiences with his card tricks and mentalism act.

Paul, who moved to the New Forest two years ago, has also appeared on The Weakest Link, where even notoriously grumpy host Anne Robinson was impressed by his skills.

I've always been a fan of magic, so it's with a sense of anticipation I sit down to chat to Paul. And it's not long before I've convinced him to show me a couple of tricks.

The first is a disappearing card trick - effective, but simple. I want more.

Paul ups the ante slightly, guessing which card I've picked from a full deck, just by studying my reactions as I answer a few short questions. Okay, now I'm impressed.

But there's more to come. I'm left gobsmacked when Paul asks me to write a three or four-letter word down on a piece of paper and hold it between my hands.

He then simply asks me to look at him while he reads my mind and first states that I've picked a fruit, before writing down the word "pear" and asking if he's guessed correctly. He has. Wow.

It's not hard to see how Paul's audiences enjoy his performances - usually done at the table at corporate events and weddings.

But it's not just the spectators getting a thrill out of the magic.

"I love close-up magic and I still do close-up magic, but now I concentrate mainly on mentalism," explains Paul.

"The kind of stuff I do on stage takes years to learn and when you can get into someone's head people are just shocked. They can't understand how you did it."

It seems I'm not about to understand either as, despite some gentle probing, Paul is determined not to reveal any of his secrets. And who can blame him? They have taken him 10 years to learn.

"You kind of learn a lot of things at once and then figure out different ways around it," he said.

"Learning to read people's minds takes about 10 years. You learn while you're doing close-up stuff. You learn different ways to do the same trick because different people like it different ways.

"I'm always learning. It's one of my philosophies: don't stop learning - it gets really boring if you do."

But Paul, who also works for Thomas International doing psychometrics (assessing employees' work behaviour in a bid to better motivate them), explains that the learning process is a complex one.

"The more you can do, then people say okay, show me what you've got'. That's how you get in. It's a very strange world, but I love it."

Paul has now put together a stage show, tried and tested on his family and friends, and is working to raise his profile in Dorset with a view to booking more gigs in the area.

"I want to be getting better known for doing this," he explained.

"Sometimes at big corporate things you get hired to do stage shows, which I'm missing out on. I looked at all the stuff I was doing and thought there was a really good show there.

"I still do the close tables afterwards as well. Being close to an audience has a feeling like no other. You can really experience a reaction.

"The bit at the table when everyone just looks shocked - that's what I love."