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The World’s Worst Magician

June 5, 2013

“I saw the world’s worst magician last night, he died, the unfortunate chap.” So begins one of my favourite poems, by the brilliant Richard Digance. “Died” in this case being the show business meaning of “left the stage to the sound of his own footsteps,” of course.

Anyway, this entry is because “Bullet Catch” at the National Theatre has now closed and I can’t therefore review the penultimate performance of it on the main site. Much as I’d like to, as I think I have actually seen “the World’s Worst Magician” now, for real.

OK, the performer admits he’s an actor, not a magician, but he still presents a number of tricks before the final “Bullet Catch” that has killed so many over the years.

Picking an audience member to act as foil, reader of extracts of the story of one (fictitious) stage death, and ultimately to fire the gun, it was noticeable that the guy chose a young woman… despite two men being equally likely candidates. She did well, actually, and, fair enough she was probably the pleasantest to look at for an hour.

The narrative itself was pretty dull as well as misleading hokum that trivialised true stories like that of Chung Ling Soo; and I could have let it pass if he’d been any good at the tricks used to punctuate it. To say this guy “gave away” how every single trick was done (despite making a big – and time filling, to pad out this hour and a bit of garbage) fuss about being asked not to… is the least of it.

Ever wanted to know how magicians “force” the reply they need, do “cold reading” or (most pathetic of all) do the “glass under one paper bag, can crumple the rest” job? It’s all here, as every untidy bit of business he performed showed how precise magic needs to be to sustain an illusion. I mean, if you guess a word after the audience see it before you do, get it exact, and if you are going to take a risk, don’t make that one wrinkly paper bag so obvious, right?!

And then the main event. I do actually know how it’s done, because Paul Daniels himself explained it years ago on his much missed TV programme, and it’s been explained on others since.

Leaving out the chump’s lack of ability to build any tension, the worst he could have suffered was needing his hair combed from a bullet whistling about a foot over his head. Yet he still felt the need to collapse dramatically to the floor anyway… incidentally blocking the end for 90% of the audience-in-the-round. Nice one.

Actually, I was more scared by the way the gun was casually handled. Instructing his audience choice to “hold the gun downwards unless firing” my instant thought was, “Brilliant, discharge a gun from 50cm into a solid concrete floor and see where that gets you.” Upwards, at worst it might hit a beam, but will probably safely lodge in the insulation. Hopefully, he was using two blanks of course.

What made me almost leave (until I realised the shell was also a blank and any shrapnel would probably only mangle the handler) was when the weapon jammed twice and a stage manager decided to clear the blockage in full view of the audience. Er, ever hear of taking it into the wings, holding it inside the bulletproof “sand box” that should be there and dealing with it safely? To the Guardroom, Sergeant.

Dull, without a single insight into the world of magic and without a shred of showmanship either. If this heads your way, don’t catch it…

4 Comments
  1. Sarah permalink
    June 5, 2013 8:18 am

    So…. you didn`t like it then ?? !!

    • Steve Rich permalink
      June 5, 2013 9:13 am

      Put it this way, I was thinking of asking to borrow the gun…

  2. June 7, 2013 9:53 am

    One simply cannot believe, Dahling, why one wasn’t arsked to do it….. ROFL

    • Steve Rich permalink
      June 7, 2013 10:04 am

      If only, if only… oh my, if only…

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