Slightly Off Target – Bullet Catch – The NT Shed -Review

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The Shed is the National Theatre’s temporary theatre whilst the Cottesloe is transformed into The Dorfman. It’s a great 250 seater studio space.

Bullet Catch comes to it from its success in Edinburgh last year, and fresh from a Broadway run this year.

It says in the programme “this is not a magic show; it’s a theatre show featuring magic.” I disagree, it’s a magic show, albeit one with a thought through narrative. Narrative, trick, narrative, trick… is the order of the evening. It’s a tad pretentious to claim this is anything more than a magic show (and there’s nothing wrong with a decent magic show).

Rob Drummond is the “magician”(a term he doesn’t use in the programme or on stage). He’s an engaging, pleasant and skillful one. His narrative revolves around the notorious “bullet catch trick” that has claimed the life of numerous magicians over the years.

Throughout the 1hr 20 mins he is assisted by a single member of the audience. It’s a big ask for an audience member to become such a integral part of a show. (Leading some to speculate whether they are a stooge) Ours last night was confident and candid thankfully. I wonder how it’d work with someone not quite as confident or comfortable being on stage for over an hour?

I have two issues with this show;

Number one; he exposes a magical secret/effect (one also used by Derren Brown in his An Evening of Wonders show) that isn’t his intellectual property to expose.It comes quite late in the show. I think it serves no theatrical purpose, other than to make Rob come across as cold, heartless and as if he doesn’t care, which is a shame as he’s built such good rapport with the audience. In a show where so much has gone into the narrative and framing of the effects this exposure felt unnecessary and quite lazy.  He’ll no doubt argue that he gives option for audience members to cover their eyes. True, but he takes about 2/3 mins to expose it, sitting with eyes closed for that long is not really an option in a theatre.
He should have thought of his own secret to expose rather than ripping off someone elses. (as Penn and Teller expertly do) Strangely at the end when my colleague wanted to examine a prop on stage as he was leaving the theatre, he was told he wasn’t allowed to by a stagehand “as we doesn’t want people to know the secrets“!

Number two;  his big finale is a bullet catch. He produces (via a rather lame magicians prop box) a Glock 9mm handgun. Except we’re in the UK and handgun’s are illegal,  a recent case saw a former S.A.S soldier in trouble for keeping his firearms after leaving the service. If a former firearms specialist gets in trouble with the law, I doubt wielding a loaded illegal firearm on the NT stage would go unnoticed by the police. Plus it made a noise akin to a cap gun and the petite volunteer fired it single-handed with no recoil!
This effect also featured a really “clunky” method, a real shame as rest of magic was performed effortlessly.

So for me it was an enjoyable and interesting magic show, but it didn’t hit the bullseye.

STARS: ★ ★ ★


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