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tough questions. Do bear in mind that every trick will not stand up to ten out often—but on the other hand, keep in mind that the higher the score, the more suitable the trick. Also keep in mind that you can alter tricks so that you improve them and with that in mind, if you are sure a change can be made you naturally answer yes to what might otherwise have been no. 1 find this a simple and time-saving system. I lay no claims as to the originality of this system as I am confident that anything so painfully obvious must have been thought of by everybody who, like myself, has blundered through reams of diabolical mental magic—hoping to find one trick!

What else goes to make a trick good or bad ? Well, to a large extent it is a matter of taste and we must allow for a considerable amount of personal bias. I know what 1 like and what 1 do not like, which is a good thing. However, what is better than that, I know why I don't or do like an effect and maybe if 1 describe briefly what I feel is a good trick, you will have something to guide you.

First I feel that it is absolutely imperative that the trick is one that can be explained to an audience. By that I mean, performed in such a way that they will understand what has happened. It might well seem a very odd thing to say—but one sees so many tricks of mentalism these days and quite a few of them are so involved or over subtle that at the end nobody is quite sure what has been achieved. That, to put it mildly, is a fat lot of good! The only advancement on this type of effect is the one that cannot be understood by the audience and the performer himself is not so sure what has happened. Yes— they exist.

One thing you have got to bear in mind all the time and that is you know what happens because you have read the instructions or invented the trick. That's all very well but the audience see it for the first time and they have to grasp the effect first time or it is useless. So first of all, be sure the audience understand what you do.

This leads us automatically into my second demand for a good trick. That is simplicity. I like straightforwardness. Invariably, a trick which you find simple to understand is a trick which is simple to perform. This does not mean the trick has to be weak. Anybody who knows anything about magic will acknowledge that some of the most beautiful masterpieces of trickery are so simple that they outclass the mass of tricks. If you bother to think about it, you will find that you personally get far more satisfaction by fooling somebody by a very'simple dodge-—than you do by a complicated and drawn out routine. So the trick should be simple to understand; you did this, you did that and the result was so and so, and it should be simple to perform. The less worries you have whilst performing, the better will be your act. The easier your tricks are the less worries you have. Never be ashamed of simplicity, it may not impress the boys at your local magic club but if you don't tell them how, a simple trick is just as likely to fool them as it is sure to deceive a lay audience.

The third standard which 1 expect of a good trick is that it is worth doing. I qualify that by saying there are many effects which although of the class mental magic—they are just not strong enough or unusual enough to be worth performing. You have to achieve something good. To have a card taken from a pack, remembered and returned, and then found by a couple of quick looks through the deck—that is the sort of thing which amuses those who take this subject as a hobby—but it is not good enough for public presentation. If you like to dress it up and make it into something that's a different thing, but you belittle yourself by performing rather silly small tricks. If you know one good trick and nothing more, do the one and then stop. If you go on and add a few half-hearted catches you reveal yourself. If you do nothing more they are never sure how much you could do if you wanted to! It stands to reason that you now want to know how you can tell when you have done a good trick? Very simple. At the finish of the effect look at the audience; if they have gone white in ihe face, froth at the mouth with excitement, shake at the knees or get down on the floor and salaam you —it is quite a fair trick. If they snore or ask you what time your bus leaves— take a hint. J used too think one way to judge a trick was to wait and see if they said 44 Do* it again." I made the mistake of thinking that if they said this, they likedMt so much they wanted another dose. Now I know better. Often people say 44 Do it again " because you were so damn clumsy the first time that they caught half the trick and they now want to see the other half so that they know how it works. It is a great thing to make mistakes because that is the best way to learn!

Finally, a few minor standards for the making of good mental effects. The trick should be reasonably short, as a guide you might say that the more people you have watching a trick, the quicker it should be done. If you are working to an intimate audience of six or so seated around a table you are in a position to introduce one or two lengthy routines. The six people are close enough to enjoy the company of the performer, to see everything that happens and to hear everything that is said. On the other hand, on stage with an audience of one thousand it is by no means the same. This time you cannot be with every member of the audience and there is much more chance of them missing something you do and not hearing something you say. Therefore you have to struggle to catch and keep attention from start to finish. Nothing is more likely to cause a drop in attention than something which goes on and on and on.

If you have a first class effect which you feel must go into the stage act and yet it takes quite a time to perform, you must try and divide the performance of this effect into stages and make each stage a short, separate entertainment for the audience. A joke is enough to break the monotony—a funny gesture at the right time, can be the saving feature in a trick which will have a stunning finish if anybody waits long enough to see what happens. Consider at all times what you are supposed to be and what you are supposed to be able to do. You are a mindreader and you 44 should " be able to say to somebody, 44 Think of a name!" and three seconds later you blurt out44 Dr. Livingstone" and the victim nods his head in reply. Any deviation from this theme is a stride away from what you would do if you could do the real thing. So when you have a member of the audience clean and examine twenty four school slates, keep in mind that you are the only person in the world who can understand what slates have to do with what you are supposed to be.

This brings us to another important point and it is something which connects the running time of a trick with the value of a trick. Primarily you have to entertain your audience and it is easy, very easy to get carried away with a trick that you like and forget that it may not be so interesting to an audience. You have an appreciation and liking for mentalism, try to avoid the pitfall of entertaining yourself without at the same time, entertaining the audience. This sort of mistake is made more often by an enthusiastic amateur mentalist, than by the professional man who tries continuously to see everything from the audience viewpoint.

Everything must have a beginning and an end. A good trick must have a good and decisive finish. It is part and parcel of showmanship to be able to tell the audience 44 Now you can clap " and the stronger your finish, especially with the last trick in the act, the better off you will be. It is a very common mistake among inexperienced performers to take a few tricks and build them into an act. Then they hear the word 44 Continuity " and think this means that one trick must run smoothly and faultlessly into the next, making the whole a continuous routine. This is all wrong; utterly wrong.

If you have an act you might say you have a routine with six tricks. You have got to remember that it is six tricks and not one routine that you are showing. You should get at least six rounds of applause, one for each trick and each round of applause represents a break. If you make your six tricks run so smoothly one into the other, you do not finish one before you start the next; you do not give the audience a chance to applaud or to have a break. You need both, which we call applause-breaks during every performance. They serve more than one purpose. A break relieves the tension. You start a trick and build up the tension using showmanship and effect to scare or amaze an audience, then you break off quickly and let their emotions fall back to normal and give them a chance to let off steam by applauding your work. Then you start again rather like a see-saw, causing elation and then relaxation. Added to this pattern of psychological mistreatment, each trick should be followed by a stronger one if possible, so that each time you elate the audience a little more than last time. Now you achieve the purpose of routining and that is to go forward in steps until you reach an outstanding peak. Then you end.

I gained a lot of experience and understanding about breaks when I used to perform ghost shows. The necessity is not so apparent when doing ordinary mental magic (although it is still there) but when you go into the business of frightening people you find out that obvious breaks are imperative. You are performing a ghost show and you see and feel the tension building up; if you don't stop it gets unbearable, the audience become so tense that you feel as though an explosion is due to occur. You have to create breaks which act as safety valves and let the audience unwind a bit every now and then, it does them good, it does you good and to come back to the beginning, perfect routining does not achieve this when the continuity is overdone. Some while ago I watched a very good mental act at the London Society of Magicians. At the end, my friend turned to me and said he thought the act was good but it didn't seem as though the audience liked it much as they only clapped once. To me, the answer was very clear. Excepting when the man walked off the stage, the audience hadn't been given a chance to clap; there were no breaks.

So to come back to our original discussion, a good trick is one that enables you to make a strong obvious finish. Although you adopt an applause position (i.e. as suggested on page 396) to show the audience you have finished, the trick itself should also seem completed. Some tricks depend on a flash back principle; the performer does something and then slowly stops and smiles. The onlookers seeing him smile begin to think and suddenly realise

Friendly Persuasion

Friendly Persuasion

To do this successfully you need to build a clear path of action by using tools if necessary. These tools would be facts, evidence and stories which you know they can relate to. Plus you always want to have their best interests at heart, in other words, you know what is good for them

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