Playing mind games with a mentalist

It’s Sunday night, and I’ve just come back from watching Marc Salem’s Mind Games at the Tricycle theatre in Kilburn. It’s a wonderful experience; I must admit to being very frustrated by a lot of it as I simply can’t work out how it was done. I also got my own chance to make a fool on myself on-stage and managed not to disappoint.

Marc Salem is like a more cerebral, US version of Derren Brown (though actually he’s been doing it a lot longer than Derren). The show’s a mix of psychology, showmanship and I suspect clever prestidigitation. However I don’t know that for sure, as with at least half the things that were done, I simply have no clue; not a situation I like. Overall it’s a mix of apparent mind reading and mis-direction; yet Marc Salem himself points out there’s nothing occult or supernatural in the act.

The whole thing relies on interaction with the audience. My moment came at the point where he asked “does anyone here do anything to do with accounting?” No one answered so he still was short of a volunteer, so he then asked “what I need is someone with good maths” and the MSG egged me on to volunteer. As I got up to go to the stage, he asked “do you ever act?”, to which I replied “no, but I do present.” A phrase I instantly regretted as I normally refer to myself as a journalist first – it wasn’t the most intelligent response, to set you up.

Marc told me I’d have to add up three three-digit numbers. And then said “I can see what you’re thinking, don’t worry, let me help” and then brought out a calculator – however I must admit, that was a wee error on his part as it’d never crossed my mind; the sum was quite simple. Yet I still haven’t worked out how he managed to have the three numbers (which were generated by asking nine members of the audience; including friends of mine who we’d gone with) add up to the number he’d pre-recorded on a tape. Dissecting it afterwards we had a wodge of theories, but still no answer.

The show itself was superb; it’s on for a couple of weeks and I’d advise anyone who gets the chance to go.

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PS. The ‘can you act?’ question was because I then had to read out what was on a card in a theatrical way as he asked questions. That of course was easy, my problem was when I started to go for it, he said “get your own show” to which I instinctively responded, “I have one, watch ITV1 Tonight With Trevor this Friday for Reclaim, Reclaim, Reclaim?” It was meant as a joke, and most people got it, but I did feel a bit of a prat afterwards for saying it! It’s what happens when you’re very used to being on stage, but suddenly find yourself outside your comfort zone.