A keystone of david's work is his handling of the forcing technique popularly known as Magician's Choice. It can he found in many of his stage routines and is at the core of one of his favourite impromptu effects. Traditionally the Magician's Choice is often presented as a process of elimination and all too often the method is transparent rather than invisible. To further complicate matters many laymen have encountered party tricks that depend upon a form of the Magicians Choice and are quite familiar with telltale phrases such as "You chose Red so that leaves me with Black!"
David's handling is subtle and includes specific strategies that help the performer understand how to achieve his goal without the method becoming obvious even to the knowledgeable layman. One way to understand the technique is to study David's use of the Force in a double prediction. So let's imagine you're at a party. You have a drink in one hand, a plate full of food in the other and you see people gathering in the centre of the room. Curious, you wander over
And find David at the centre of the crowd. The host is telling people to gather around and David is asking one of the partygoers to pick a few small objects and put them on the table. "Take as many small items from your pocket as you've got. If you don't have enough get someone else to help you. Something from a lady's handbag will do. Anything very personal or embarrassing, leave it where it is." Other items from nearby tables and people's pockets are also added to the growing pile; a signet ring, a gold coin, a spoon, drinks coaster, swizzle stick etc. As the items are being gathered David is writing something down on a sheet of paper. He folds it into quarters with the writing inside, marks a bold number 1 on the outside and then places it on the table. You can still see the paper. It's not hidden from sight and it will be there throughout the routine.
"We need some more items," says David. Other people add objects to the growing pile on the table; a lapel pin, comb, pen, nail clippers, pair of spectacles and so on. Meanwhile David writes something on a second sheet of paper, folds it up and writes a number 2 on the outside. This is also placed on the table where it will always be on view.
By now there are around 20 objects. You know this because David has asked the
volunteer to arrange them in a straight line and to count them. Having done that he is asked to eliminate half of the objects. He docs and then rearranges the remaining ten objects again into a line. David asks him to make another choice, whittling the ten objects down to just five. And of these five the volunteer chooses just one. David asks if he is sure. He is and the object, a set of keys, is placed next to the paper marked "1".
The process is repeated with the volunteer once again making choices and narrowing the objects down to one final item, an electronic pager. Its placed next to the paper marked
"Nobody could have possibly known which two objects you would choose," says David. You agree and you remember David writing on a piece of paper long before the items were arranged on the table. "Now what was your first choice?" asks David. "The car keys," says the volunteer. David asks him to pick up the paper marked "1,"unfold it and read out the contents.
It says, "You will choose the car keys." The volunteer is amazed and the crowd applauds.
"And what was your second choice?" asks David. "The pager," replies the volunteer. David asks him to open the second paper and read it out. It says, "This time you chose the pager." If you could find somewhere to put your glass and your plate, you too would join in the applause.
Revelations: As usual the Magician s Choice is executed in a series of steps, reducing the number of items until only one is left and this is designated as the volunteer's choice. The trickery lies in a number of carefully worded phrases. Each time a choice is offered David is able to manipulate it to retain the items he needs and discard those he doesn't. At no time during the routine does David ever use words like, "choose," or "select." With that in mind let's examine what David does do.
The first thing he does has nothing to do with the force but it's a tip well worth passing on. Magicians are always called upon to perform magic at parties and David is happy to oblige. But he doesn't want to be in the position of having to repeat the performance over and over again for those that missed it. To stop that happening he'll say to those who are watching, "We'll need an awful lot of objects and more people, the more people you can get the better." This will automatically encourage those nearby to call other people around. Within a short time a crowd will build, David can give one demonstration and then enjoy the remainder of the party like the rest of the guests.
David makes two predictions. The first is of an object he knows is likely to be placed on the table; wristwatch, keys, pen, comb, teaspoon, sugar cube etc. In most instances the prediction will be written, folded and placed on the table before the item makes an appearance on the table. As a precaution against people opening the predictions prematurely David tucks each one beneath a larger object not being used in the effect, an ashtray or glass for instance. From the audience's point of view it prevents the papers being tampered with.
For the second item he chooses a more unusual object. Something quite distinctive that has just made an appearance, either from someone's pocket or a nearby table, and as yet has not been added to the pile. The common object guarantees that one prediction can be made early; the unusual object makes, the effect more memorable.
Hav ing got about twenty (the number isn't really important) different small items onto the table David asks the volunteer to arrange them into a straight line emphasising that he can put the objects in any order he likes. It's a genuinely free choice and great importance is laid upon it.
David asks the volunteer whether he is right or left-handed. Again it is of no consequence but the spectators are led to believe otherwise. "Right handed? Okay then with your right hand would you please point to and count the items." As the count is made David notes whether the position of the first predicted item is odd or even. Let's assume that the keys lie at an odd position.
The volunteer announces that there are twenty items. "Would you say odd or even?"
asks David. "Even" replies die volunteer and David asks him to push all the even objects forward. The volunteer does and David immediately and casually sweeps them aside into a pile. Pointing to the objects left behind he says, "And would you please arrange these objects into any order you want, again in a straight line."
Had the volunteer said "Odd," then David would have asked him to push all the odd numbered items forward. The rest would be swept aside.
The first elimination has been made and the keys have been left among the ten items that are still in play. And before the volunteer can even think about what has happened his mind is already occupied with rearranging the objects before him. This is all part of the strategy, directing the volunteer's attention away from the selection process.
Another part of the strategy is that David never repeats himself. Hav ing used the phrase "Odd or Even" he now takes a different tack. "You have ten items in front of you." David sees that the force object, in this case the keys, is at position four. "Would you say one to five or six to ten?"
"Six to ten," says the volunteer. "Then put them with the others," replies David. The objects are discarded, leaving just five on the table including the keys.
Had "one to five" been called David would have placed his hand at the centre of the line and cleared items six to ten away without even giving them a second glance. David asks the volunteer to rearrange the remaining five in any order he wishes. Again, the task occupies the volunteer and stops him thinking about how he has arrived at this situation.
With just five items in play a different procedure is used to arrive at the keys. It will involve the volunteer picking up objects from the table but because David can see which objects are going to be picked up he is able to anticipate the volunteer's actions and phrase his patter accordingly.
He begins by asking the volunteer if he is satisfied with the order of the items. If not, he is invited to rearrange them once more. "Now pick one up in your left hand and one in your right hand." If David sees that the volunteer is about to pick up the keys he will continue the sentence, saying, "And hand one to me."
If the keys are handed to him David holds them up, saying, "Are vou sure?" Invariably the answer will be yes and they are placed next to prediction number "1". Mission accomplished.
Note how fluid the procedure is and how the chosen object is held up at the finish of the routine, drawing attention away from the one the volunteer is still holding. Even at this stage it seemed as if the volunteer could change his mind. "Are you sure?" asked David. It's a phrase he has used several times throughout the routine. The volunteer, having no idea as to the significance of the choice he had made, had no reason to say anything except, "Yes," at this point.
But what if the keys were not handed to David? In that case he nonchalantly discards the object and asks, "And what have you got in your hand?" "A set of car keys," is the reply.
David says, "Your choice," and asks the volunteer to place the keys next to the first prediction. It's another fluid transition and no one has any reason to believe that this is not the intended procedure.
Continuing our journey of chance lets assume that the keys are not one of those items picked up from the table. In that case the original sentence is finished by saying, "...and put them with the others." David immediately directs everyone's attention to the three remaining objects on the table. He says, "There are now three items on the table which no one could possibly have known beforehand. Do you agree? Would you hand one to me please?"
If the keys are chosen David can draw attention to them as before and place them next to the first prediction. If not he follows the pattern and discards the object, saying, "Now before I go any further. You will appreciate that no one could possibly have known which items would be on the table nor the order you would arrange them in, and especially which two items would be on the table at this moment."
"This is where you have to make an important decision. Pick up one of those," he says pointing to the two objects. If the volunteer reaches for the keys, David quickly asks, "And what have you decided on?" It's the first time he's asked this question. The volunteer names the set of keys, as if confirming his choice, and it is placed with due ceremony next to the first written prediction.
If the volunteer reaches for the wrong item, David concludes the sentence by saying, "and put it with the others," and then turning to the remaining object says, "And what have you got." Once again it is the keys. Game, set and match.
Well almost. Having forced the keys David now has to force the pager. He could repeat the previous sequence but use different wording so as to disguise the take-it-or-leave-it nature of the force. More likely he will take a different route to the same destination.
For instance, having completed the first part of this experiment he says, "Let's do it again," looking at the pile of discarded objects that includes the pager. Depending on the original position of the item it will either be in the first pile of discards when the original line of objects was divided into two or in the second pile. Either pile can be legitimately used. "Please pick up any four objects," says David. The volunteer does so and if these contain the pager David w ill work with this group. If not, they will be discarded and he will work with the remaining six using Magicians Choice to arrive at the pager.
It is unproductive to enumerate the many possibilities that present themselves during this routine. In any case David does not follow any set program. Rather he uses an understanding of the principles behind the force and his instinct as a performer to decide which procedure would suit any given situation. It is better to concentrate on the specific techniques that make the routine effective rather than learn a rigid procedure that ultimately would restrict its application. Specifically they are:
• Never repeat yourself.
• Never announce what is going to happen.
• Appear disinterested in the various selections the volunteer makes.
• Think ahead and adjust your patter accordingly.
• Direct the volunteer's attention to where you want it directed.
• Emphasise the final choice.
Sometimes the whole selection process is drastically reduced because both force objects are not only within the first ten selected items but then make it through to the final group. With practise, and using only the techniques described here, it is possible to eliminate all the objects except the two force items.
Having done that, and because he likes his routines to be thoroughly impossible. David might offer the volunteer the opportunity to choose which object goes with which prediction. Let's assume that the keys and pager are now in play. David asks the volunteer to hand him one. "Its a very important decision," says David and the volunteer gives it due consideration. Finally he hands over the keys.
"Do you want to place your item down on Paper Number One or Two?" If the volunteer places the keys on prediction number one, he will have no option but to place the pager on number two. But what if Lady Luck doesn't lend a hand?
Here David may introduce another strategy that he has used on many occasions. He has discovered that if someone has made a decision and is then asked, "Do you want to change your mind?" they are unlikely to do so. The request has to be phrased neatly, as if it is a mere formality. If the volunteer is convinced that their choices have been free so far they have no reason to change now. However, if David gives them a chance to think about the matter for any length of time, they will, invariably change their mind. "Do you want to change your mind?" asks David, and before they can reply, adds, "I will count to ten and give you a chance to think about it." He looks at his watch or counts silently while the volunteer makes up his mind. I'sually, they will then change.
If they don't, he finishes by simply picking up both predictions and holding them together as he recaps on the fact that no one could have known beforehand which objects would be chosen. He then hands each prediction to a different spectator so that they can read them aloud. First prediction number one and then prediction number two. Both objects have been correctly predicted and no mention is made of which object was written on which paper.
Described here the Magician's Choice may read as labyrinthine but that is not the case. In most instances the procedure is so direct and so quick that it seems absolutely impossible that the performer could have forced anything. One major reason that magicians fail to use this technique effectively is that they do not have confidence in it. It's an attitude that makes for hesitant and unconvincing performances. As far as David is concerned there are no lucky breaks when using the Magician's Choice. It works every time and every time it works is as convincing as every other time to the audience. The performer has to convey the impression that every outcome is the one intended. You can't be waiting for Lady I aick to smile. Not only will the audience sense it but, luck being what it is, you will fail far more often than you succeed.
That the technique does work and is worth wider attention is shown by the fact that David uses it not just as an impromptu routine but also in his professional performances on television and on stage, lake a look at his Newspaper Prediction or ESPaco/ogy. Or the marvellous Shall We Open The Box? from his Man, Myth and Magic Show. The Magicians Choice has been cleverly Factored into those effects, its bones well hidden behind the flesh of good and entertaining routines. With a confidence that comes from a clear understanding of the principles behind Magician's Choice, anything is possible.
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