Box over Regent Street

considers one of his best. Now is the time for Rudi to open the envelopes and take out his passport. There are a few moments of fumbling and the sound of rustling paper. Then a gasp of surprise from Rudi and the audience. His passport has gone.

"What do you mean, gone?" asks David

"But the whole audience saw it put there."

The cellophane bag is indeed empty and the passport nowhere to be seen. But if the passport isn't there, where can it be?

David turns his attention to the Admiralty men in Regent Street. "Have you been keeping a close eye on the box?" They say they have. David asks the Sea Cadets to bring the box back into the office via the window. They break the seal and haul at the ropes and pulleys and soon have it inside. The Admiralty officials confirm that their diplomatic seals are still intact. One of them produces a key and uses it to open the lock. There is another gasp. Last

WHAT'S IN THE BOX?

week the box was empty. Now there is something inside. It's a passport.

"Take it out, open it and read out the name," says David. "It belongs to someone called Rudi Sookoo," they say. They check the country of origin. It's Algeria, Rudi's homeland. Then they read out the passport number. It matches the one that had been noted down earlier.

"To make sure that it really is your passport Rudi, please ask them for some details that we haven't already written down," says David. Rudi asks them for his occupation. "Bicycle Manufacturer," comes the reply. The audience laugh, Rudi doesn't look like a captain of industry. He isn't but he does assemble bicycles in a factory back home, an image that for some reason gets another laugh. Nevertheless, this little detail leaves the audience with only one conclusion, that somehow Rudi's passport has really teleported from the studio to a box hanging high above Regent Street. The show is at an end. David apologises to Rudi, saying, "Sorry but we've run out of time to bring it back by Magic. But don't worry it's already on its way by taxi!"

Revelations: This is another of David's favourites and was briefly though incorrectly described in Corinda's Thirteen Steps To Mentalism. It is perhaps impossible now to imagine the excitement that live radio broadcasts created before television became the dominant entertainment medium. But David recalls the tremendous buzz it generated at the time and his own personal thrill at being able to pull off such a high profile stunt in the heart of London. The broadcast was a complex one, not only from the point of view of David's performance (this is another of his unique creations devised for one show only) but in terms of the immense amount of effort and persuasion required to get permission to hang a box over Regent Street without actually telling anyone what was going to happen.

London has always been a city of bureaucrats and David began by approaching Westminster City Council who, perhaps not knowing better, referred him to the local Member of Parliament. A meeting at the House of Commons lead to further meetings with various local authorities and interested parties including the fire service, who had to be sure that the stunt would not endanger the public. Then he went to see the Regent Street Association, the body that knows more than most about the difficulties of suspending objects above street level, they look after the annual Christmas Lights. And, most unexpectedly, London Transport had to be consulted. They were concerned that it might affect their famous double-decker buses. David described the stunt to anyone who would listen for at least six weeks and eventually got the permissions he sought.

Persuading some officials from the Admiralty lent an air of authority to the closing and opening of the box, as did the use of diplomatic seals. It was the Admiralty who suggested that the Sea Cadets could put up the rigging required. Two sandwich board men were employed to walk the street, carrying advertisements for the show and the BBC repeatedly trailed the stunt on air in the run-up to the broadcast. The combination of street advertising and on-air publicity made the show a great topic of conversation.

The studio part of the broadcast took place at the Playhouse Theatre on the Embankment. Before the show David told the audience that he would require some volunteers, people who had some personal object, perhaps a document such as a driving licence, addressed envelope or identity card. The reason for the stipulation was that David already knew that a passport would be the chosen object. It was held by a young student, Rudi Sookoo, who had agreed to help with the presentation. On the show, when Rudi heard the request for volunteers, he stepped forward along with half a dozen others. David then used his elimination techniques to single out Rudi from the rest along with one other volunteer. He wanted two volunteers at this stage because of a final touch in which the audience would be convinced that Rudi really was genuinely selected at random. "We have two left from our eight volunteers. You decide which one." If Rudi was selected then later, during the broadcast, David would ask the studio audience to confirm that they had chosen Rudi.

If Rudi hadn't been chosen at this stage, David would have gone into a different speech.

Turning to the other volunteer he would say, "You have a very important job to do." He would then explain how he will be putting the object into a couple of envelopes and hanging it from a bulldog clip attached to a length of string etc. In other words, this would be seen to be the crucial task. Almost as an afterthought he would turn to Rudi and ask if he had some personal object on him. The passport would then be produced as prearranged. Later in the broadcast the importance of the volunteer chosen by the audience would be reversed. It's a strategy that can be applied to many different routines.

In this particular performance David had one more trick up his sleeve. When Rudi introduced himself it was clear from his broken English that he was foreign and that his command of English might not be good enough. David immediately looked concerned; worried that the newly chosen volunteer might not be able to follow instructions. He asked if it would be better if someone else was chosen instead. The audience, as he expected, took a different view. Rudi was the man they had chosen, Rudi it shall be. Which, of course, suited David just fine.

Details from the passport were noted down and then David inserted it first into a clear cellophane bag and then into a brown envelope, which was taken from a group of envelopes scattered on a table. He asked the second volunteer to pick up a larger envelope and examine it. As he did, David simply dropped his envelope onto the table and, a moment later, picked up another one. It had been stiffened with a piece of card inside and contained a duplicate, but empty, cellophane bag (The visual image of an empty transparent bag at the conclusion of the routine was much stronger than just showing the inside of an envelope). It was handed to the volunteer who dropped it into the larger envelope and then clipped the lot to a bulldog clip attached to a line hanging from overhead. David describes the switch as "shamefacedly simple." It was timing and misdirection rather than any kind of clever sleight of hand or

Another BBC Radio appearance: David reproducing the famous pianist Walter Landauer after he vanished from a different studio.

Magic Apparatus

mechanics that made it work.

All this was done during the warm-up before the show came on air. David brought the listeners up to speed by explaining what had happened and the studio audience verified every detail. Having explained how the passport disappeared we need only reveal the method for its reappearance. Naturally it was a duplicate passport with the genuine item being discovered in the box. The metal box had a tin flap in its lid and when David had displayed it to the men from the Admiralty, the week before, the real passport was hidden behind it. This required some careful handling. The question mark painted on the bottom of the box gave David an excuse to turn the box upside down so that he could point it out. It was then shown empty by keeping the lid stationery and hinging the body of the box open. David slammed the lid closed, dislodging the flap, which sank to the bottom of the box where it was held securely by double-sided tape which was a new innovation at that time.

You can readily see how the various pieces of the puzzle fit together, how a borrowed document disappeared from one studio and appeared in a locked and sealed box some miles away. When David lectures to magicians there are three things they always ask about: the Picture Post Stunt, the Vanishing Piano and the Box Over Regent Street. However, this is the first time that the full story of the box and it secrets have been told.

The Art Of Cold Reading

The Art Of Cold Reading

Today I'm going to teach you a fundamental Mentalism technique known as 'cold reading'. Cold reading is a technique employed by mentalists and charlatans and by charlatan I refer to psychics, mediums, fortune tellers or anyone that claims false abilities that is used to give the illusion that the person has some form of super natural power.

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