Many magicians in the UK will remember David performing this on his Channel Four television series, The Mind of David Berg/as. Inspired by the standard Card in Balloon effect David has devised a routine that is colourful, impossibly baffling and has immense production value. This latter quality is often lacking in the performances of magicians and mentalists who want to carry the minimum amount of props yet expect to work large venues. Cards in Balloon gives the audience something to look at as well as think about.

When the routine begins the curtains are closed and David stands in front of them. He asks for the assistance of three couples from the audience. They can be husband and wife, boyfriend and girlfriend or brother and sister. It's essential that they have some relationship with one another.

As lively music plays the volunteers come up on stage and the curtains open to reveal three large clear polythene bags filled with coloured balloons. The bags of balloons are hanging from metal stands and spinning above spotlights that throw colourful shadows all over the stage.

David greets the couples and then divides them into two groups. The three ladies are asked to sit on chairs arranged at an angle on the left side of the stage. The men are asked to choose one of the bags of the balloons each and stand next to it. It's a completely free choice, the ladies can sit on any chair, and the men can choose any bag of balloons.

The spinning bags have now slowed to a halt and David asks each man to point to one of the balloons in the bag they have chosen. Again it's a free choice.

The first man points to, for example, a yellow balloon. David tears open the polythene bag, extracts the balloon and hands it to the man to hold. The second man chooses a blue balloon. Again David takes it from the bag and hands it to him. The third man chooses a red balloon and it too is taken from the bag and given to him for safekeeping.

Taking a red-backed deck of cards David shows it to the audience and points out that it contains fifty-two cards plus the two jokers, fifty-four different cards in all. He asks one of the ladies on stage to reach into the pack and choose three cards. She then distributes the cards, one to each lady. "Don't show them to me, the audience or each other," says David.

Returning to the polythene bags David rips them open and allows the balloons to cascade onto the stage in a flood of colour. Assisted by the three men they kick the balloons out into the audience and asks everyone to grab one. It's just like a party game with the people in the first row passing the balloons backwards and deep into the theatre stalls until every balloon has been claimed. "Whatever you do," says David, "don't burst them yet."

David walks over to the ladies and asks what cards they have chosen.

"Six of Clubs," says one.

"Two of Diamonds," says another.

"King of Hearts," says the third.

"Ladies and gentleman. I asked these ladies to choose any three cards from a red-backed pack. Each of those balloons," says David, pointing into the audience, "contains a card from a blue-backed pack."

The people in the audience look at their balloons closely for the first time and see that David is right. In the centre of each balloon is a folded playing card.

"Attached to each balloon is a safety pin. When I say 'Now' please pop the balloons. A card will fall out. Open it up and unfold it. If you have a matching card, Six of Clubs, Two of Diamonds, King of Hearts, hold it up in the air. Better still, stand up because I have something really interesting to show you."

Everyone opens their safety pin and prepares to stab it into their balloon. Music plays, a familiar party tune, Pop Goes the Weasel:

Haifa pound of tuppenny rice, half a pound of treacle That's the way the money goes, POP goes the Weasel.

At "Pop" David says "Now!" and dozens of balloons explode in the audience. As they explode, folded cards fall out and drop to the floor. People duck down to get them. Other people are laughing and some are still trying to build up the courage to pop their balloon. It's a real party atmosphere.

Soon all the balloons are popped and everyone has found their playing card and opened it up. "Just stand up if you have the Six of Clubs, Two of Diamonds or King of Hearts," says David. He looks around the audience but no one stands up. There's an uncomfortable silence. "Come on, someone must have the duplicates of those cards."

For a moment it seems as if something has gone wrong. Then David slowly turns and looks at the three men on stage, three men still holding three inflated balloons. "No it couldn't be."

The audience is already starting to applaud, anticipating what is going to happen. "Gentlemen, your balloons also have a pin attached. Burst the balloons, take out the cards and hold them up."

They do and inside they find the Six of Clubs, Two of Diamonds and King of Hearts!

When the applause has finished David walks up to the first of his lady volunteers. "Which one of these gentlemen is your partner?" She points to the man in the middle of the three. "And what card did you have?" She says it is the King of Hearts. David asks the man to hold up his card. It is also the King of Hearts.

"And what have you got?" says David to the second lady. "Two of Diamonds," she answers. She points out her partner and he is holding the matching Two of Diamonds. And finally the third lady's Six of Clubs matches that of the third man who is, needless to say, her partner. Fifty-four cards, fifty-four balloons and yet three couples have defied the odds to bring the routine to a fortuitous conclusion. That's why David calls this routine Matchmaker.

Revelations: The secret of the routine is that when the men choose their balloons David immediately knows which cards they contain. Armed with that information he then forces the same three cards on their partners. That's the method in a nutshell but bringing it about requires some clever thinking, an agile memory and extensive preparation.

The trickery begins as soon as the couples come forward onto the stage. David needs to remember who is with whom because in a short while the couples will be separated. He does this by finding either some common point of reference or some outstanding contrast that binds the two. The fact that both partners are the only ones wearing red would stay in the memory as would the fact that one is tall and the other short. Both could be wearing spectacles, both might be blonde. There are any number of connections that might be made and it is up to the performer to remember them.

This memory work is essential as you will shortly see. As already indicated when the balloons have been chosen David knows the identities of the cards inside. As he talks to the audience he takes out the pack of cards and spreads it face up to display it. He casually culls the three noted cards to the top and assembles them in the same order that the ladies are seated. This is so that he can Classic Force the correct card on the correct partner.

There is no special technique for culling the cards or rearranging them. The audience has no cause for suspicion. David is openly displaying the cards and telling the audience that there are fifty-four in total because the deck still contains the two Jokers.

David turns the deck face down and cuts the force cards to the centre. He leaves a step in the pack to mark the position of the cards. Then he approaches the lady in the centre chair and asks her to point to any card and take two other cards with it. He spreads the cards face down between his hands, keeping his eye on the middle force card. He times the spread so that the force card is just under the lady's hand as she reaches towards it. As soon as contact is made he plays the card into her hand and then lets her take it out, together with the two cards either side of it. He continues to spread the rest of the deck from left to right. David now directs her to give the appropriate cards to the ladies either side of her so that each lady is holding the correct card.

The reason he forces the cards as a group is that not only is this quicker than executing three separate Classic Forces but it is also more certain. The three-card spread offers a wider target than a single card making it easier to position under the lady's hand. She could touch any of the three cards and David could direct her to take out the other, whether above, below or either side, along with it.

None of this would be possible without some clever preparation. How exactly does David know which card is in which balloon? The answer lies in the area of mnemonics.

There are six different colours and the colour of each balloon identifies the suit of the card it contains. Why six and not four, the number of suits? Four could be too obvious. So David has added two extra colours. Red Balloons contain Hearts and this is easily remembered because Hearts are Red. Yellow Balloons contain Diamonds, which can be easily imagined as Yellow Diamonds. Green Balloons contain Spades. Why? Well Spades are used to dig in gardens and gardens are usually Green. Blue Balloons contain Clubs. The connection being that the lighting in Night Clubs is often Blue. Each Orange Balloon contains a King. And finally, each White Balloon contains a Joker.

But what about the numerical values? The secret to this lies in the way the safety pins are attached to the balloons. David uses small gold safety pins and ties them to the neck of the balloons with coloured threads. The colour of the thread codes the final bit of information needed to identify the value of the card.

Again a mnemonic is used to help remember which coloured thread indicates the value. In this instance David took the order of coloured balls used in the British game of Snooker and applied that to the system. Red = 1, Yellow = 2, Green = 3, Brown = 4, Blue = 5, Pink = 6, Black = 7

The rest of the numbers are coded by twisting two coloured threads together. For instance Black and Red gives a total of 8.

When it comes to the Kings (which are in the Orange balloons) the threads are used to code not value, but suits. A Red thread codes Hearts, a Blue Clubs, a Yellow Diamonds and a Green Spades.

Similarly with the Jokers contained in the White balloons. A Red thread indicates a Red Joker and a Black thread a Black Joker. It couldn't be simpler!

Preparing this routine takes a lot of effort. Fifty-four playing cards have to be inserted into fifty-four coloured balloons. Realising that this was a daunting task David devised an ingenious system that simplified the preparation.

He constructed a board, about two-foot wide and two-foot high and hinged in the centre. The board has fifty-four holes drilled in it and each one labelled with the name of a playing card.

David folds the playing cards into quarters, faces innermost, and then rolls them around a pencil to facilitate pushing them into the balloons. Once inside David unrolls the card and flattens them out to their quartered state. The appropriate coloured threads are used to tie the

safety pin to the neck of the balloon. The balloon is then tucked into the correctly labelled hole on the board.

With all the prepared balloons in place the board can be folded in half and carried to the show in a briefcase. David has a cylinder of compressed air delivered to the venue. The inflated balloons are placed into the bags which are hung from large stands. Strong spotlights are used to illuminate the bags from below.

The whole set up is easy to carry, lightweight and fits inside a small case. Yet the effect literally fills the stage with colour, involves much of the audience and conjures up a party atmosphere with laughter, music and much noise. It is a fun, memorable and baffling routine and in the end that's what makes the preparation so worthwhile.

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