Paul Stockman is a working mentalist from the UK. There has been a lot of back and forth about his first DVD set Connected on The Magic Cafe. I have to say that I don’t see where the controversy is coming from. This is a worthwhile collection of mentalism for the working performer. I will agree that the performances of some of the effects didn’t fit my style, but there are plenty of great ideas offered here. Here’s a breakdown of the effects:
Pick a Chair- Some may argue that this is too procedural and drawn out for an opener, but I think it really depends on context. I don’t necessarily subscribe to the commonly accepted axiom that you have to hit the audience with something short and punchy in the beginning of the show. If you do, you certainly wouldn’t want to open with this.
However, the effect itself is quite impressive. Four spectators come to the stage and sit in any one of the four chairs. Each time someone comes onto the stage, the mentalist writes something down on the back of an envelope and places it aside. Once they are seated, each person receives a number from 1-4. They exchange numbers and chairs until they are satisfied. The performer then hands out the envelopes according to the number that each person ended up with. Inside each envelope is a colored piece of paper. The spectators stand behind their selected chairs and hold up their colors. When the chairs are turned around, the colors on the back are seen to match.
The description may seem complicated, but the effect could play out very clearly. I say could because the presentation on the DVD did seem a little convoluted. I don’t think it has to, however. If the effect/method was stripped down to its most simplest form, I think you would have a real winner. It does require a gimmick, but it’s something you probably already have. I really like this.
Hands Off Bank Night- This played out a little weak for me on the performance section, but the idea could be made into something better. Paul’s twist on the standard Bank Night routine has a few things going for it. First, he has altered the premise a bit by having the volunteer play to find his own money. This avoids the standard presentation that the magician wins the game (and the money) and the audience wins nothing. Paul isn’t the first to take this approach, but it is still an effective one.
The other strong point is that the performer never handles the envelopes. The borrowed bill is genuinely sealed into a random envelope by a spectator so that no one (not even that spectator) knows where the bill is located. The envelopes are mixed and then eliminated using a specific procedure. Each time a bill is eliminated, it is destroyed. Of course, the volunteer is left with the envelope containing his original bill.
Since there is no surprise ending, it is essential that the performer build up tension as the envelopes are being destroyed. After all, they supposedly could contain someone’s large denomination bill. This tension did not come across in the performance section. In Paul’s defense, these were certainly not typical performing conditions. Since this was being filmed for the DVD, the audience contained a large number of magicians who knew that the bill would never be harmed. This is unfortunate, because I’ve seen performers have the audience on the edge of their seat with a similar presentation.
The Pendant Curse- This is a theatrical piece of mentalism that certainly won’t fit every performer. It is similar to Andy Nyman’s “Killer Elite” effect, but the story Paul has wrapped around it is unique. Basically, four old photos are shown, each with a picture of a different woman. A cursed pendant is also introduced. The mentalist announces that one of these women was brutally murdered. According to the legend, whoever holds the pendant will be able to divine the identity of the victim. A spectator holds onto the pendant and names one of the women. Of course, this is the woman that was predicted.
The effect is ok. My biggest complaint is that this seems better suited for a more intimate performance. The prediction is so small that only the spectator on stage will be able to read it. This is workable, but I would prefer it to play bigger.
Back To Becker- It’s difficult to review this routine since it mainly exists for a separate purpose other than the effect itself. If you were to compare this to the routine on which it is based (Larry Becker’s “Casino Royale”) this would certainly rank as weaker in almost every way. However, it allows you do something sneaky that sets up an amazing effect for later. A couple of parts of this were botched during the performance. The routine was completed without the audience catching on to anything, but there are a few moments that will make you cringe. This is another effect that could be reworked and finessed to make it into something stronger.
The Sweet Jar- The performer introduces a jar filled with candy. Three spectators are called to the stage to sit on a chair of their choice. They are each handed an envelope to write down their guess as to how many candies are in the jar. They open their envelopes and pull out what’s inside. Two of the spectators are left holding signs with a large ‘X’ printed on it. The other spectator holds a sign that predicts that his guess will be off by one. Someone opens the jar and reaches down into the candy. They find a card that tells how many candies are in the jar. Of course, the spectator’s guess is revealed to be off by one.
This totally fried me when I watched the performance. I was clueless as to a method. Some may consider the pseudo-chair test to be confusing. I happen to like it, but it could be eliminated with no problems. Also, it is not necessary for the spectator’s guess to be “off by one.” You could arrange a direct hit if you wanted. The method is very clever and super easy. Paul uses a long story presentation that fell flat for me, but it also isn’t necessary. I can see a lot of guys using this in their shows.
My Luckiest Day- Throughout the show, Paul asks members of the audience to name a month, a day, and a time. At the end of the show, he walks over to the side and picks up a tray with a candle burning on top. It has been sitting there untouched since the beginning of the show. The candle is blown out and placed aside. The bottom of the tray is shown to the audiene. Taped to the bottom of it is a large piece of paper which has written on it the exact month, day, and time that were called out earlier.
This is a killer ending and one of the best Confabulation methods I have ever seen. The principle employed is rarely used in magic. While the most basic form of the idea is not original with Paul, his application of it certainly is. The only negative is that it probably won’t fit your performing style to perform this exactly as it is described. You will have to rework some components to make it work for you. There are some additional materials that you may have to hunt for, but the mechanics of the effect are quite easy.
Also included is an interview with Paul where he talks about scripting, choosing material, and structuring a show. His tips and advice should be of interest to both aspiring mentalists and seasoned performers.
Overall, I enjoyed the DVD. There were some weaknesses in the performance, but Paul and Peter Nardi make it clear throughout their discussions that this isn’t his regular show. Rather, it is a collection of some of his original effects. I didn’t care for Paul’s storytelling presentations, but the effects were solid. There are also plenty of subtleties that Paul explains that could be of use in other effects.
It is apparent that a lot of thought has gone into these routines. I have no doubt that you will find something that suits you.
- Available for $49 from Alakazam Magic