tue 22/09/2020

Bullet Catch, Spiegeltent, Brighton | reviews, news & interviews

Bullet Catch, Spiegeltent, Brighton

Bullet Catch, Spiegeltent, Brighton

The classic shock trick provides the core for a surprisingly philosophical show

Rob Drummond whispers eternal verities to his Beretta 92

Magicians’ online forums are seething at Bullet Catch’s host and writer-director, the Scottish actor and magician Rob Drummond. This is because at one point in the show he levitates a small table then takes an audience poll as to who would like to know how the trick is done. When a majority vote they’d like to know, he shows us, simple as that.

Magicians’ online forums are seething at Bullet Catch’s host and writer-director, the Scottish actor and magician Rob Drummond. This is because at one point in the show he levitates a small table then takes an audience poll as to who would like to know how the trick is done. When a majority vote they’d like to know, he shows us, simple as that. The irritation of his peers is understandable but Bullet Catch, a hit at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe, isn’t really a magic show – although it contains magic; it’s a chattily paced, oblique meditation on nothing less than the purpose of life.

Taking place in the stylish, vintage confines of Brighton Festival’s Famous Spiegeltent before transferring to the National Theatre's new purpose-built Shed in London, the show begins with Drummond strolling onto the stage and asking us questions such as “Do you think free will is just an illusion?” He then spends quite a time choosing a volunteer who remains onstage throughout, an integral part of the proceedings.

Tonight’s is a bluff retired fellow called Kenneth who’s personable and game. Once Drummond has told us something of the history of the bullet catch, wherein a conjuror ostensibly catches a marked bullet in their hands or teeth, he bases much of the show around the supposedly true story of magician William Henderson who was shot by an audience volunteer called Charles Garth in 1912, while the trick was being performed in front of 2000 people. He goes into Henderson’s motivations and, through letters Garth wrote to his sister which Kenneth reads out, the descent into “melancholia” of the luckless “murderer” who was later unsuccessfully prosecuted. The most basic research suggests the yarn is not true and that Henderson didn’t exist but this doesn’t hinder the honed narrative of Drummond’s ideas.

He spends a good portion of the show’s hour and 10 minutes performing Derren Brown-style “mind-reading”, asking Kenneth to choose a book, pick a word from the book and guessing it, as well as similar intrusions regarding aspects of Kenneth’s personal life. It’s quietly impressive stuff, interspersed with philosophical asides, that “it’s important to believe in something” in a galaxy where the sun will, one far off day, burn out. Eventually, after a bit of street magicianship utilising bags and broken bottles, Drummond arrives at the evening’s key turn, producing a Beretta 92 automatic pistol. Kenneth signs a waiver form and locates bullets via more “mind-reading”, involving a shortlist of Freudian response processes – “Kill”, “Save” or “Love”. Kenneth changes his mind at the last minute but Drummond still second guesses him correctly. Because of all the foreplay and despite the fact this show has been touring a while and Drummond remains emphatically alive, there’s still palpable tension during the actual bullet catch. Weirdly, however, when it happens, it’s also slightly anticlimactic. Drummond then reveals, via the letters of Charles Garth, an underlying philosophical point that wraps up the evening. Whether you engage with its occasionally dour existential aspect or not, Bullet Catch is a likeable hotch-potch of actorly conceits and psychological sleight-of-hand.

Watch the trailer for Bullet Catch's Edinburgh run last year

Bullet Catch isn’t really a magic show – although it contains magic – it’s a chattily paced, oblique meditation on nothing less than the purpose of life

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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