The difficulty lies largely in the acting. When you see someone do a failurcffcct, often it is obvious rhar the person is only pretending that something has gone wrong. Now, if its clear that the trick really hasn't failed, much if not all of the potential drama is lost.
Yet, you may say, its theater! When you see a stage play in which people are fighting, you know they are only pretending to fight. Its all a play. So why should we expect an audience to believe that a trick has really gone wrong? To answer this, lets look at some aspects of reality, what is and is not pcrccivcd as reality and how that applies to theater.
True reality differs greatly from stage reality. There is no place for true reality in theater. True reality is generally not very interesting! On a stage one sees a condcnscd version of reality. The most interesting portions, the most characteristic features of reality are condensed to create one clear expression, one simple and lucid "stage reality". This has little in common with true reality. True reality, like that of everyday life, is too slow and uneventful to be presented in a show.
Though stage reality has nothing to do with true reality, it is accepted by the audience as something quite real. Suspension of disbelief takes place and people experience it as real. However, suppose you jerk them abruptly out of this dream world by asking them, "Do you think this is truly real?" They would snap out of their willful acceptance of fantasy and say, "No, of course not!" Yet, only moments before they were accepting that fiction as real. They were captured and perhaps even moved by the happenings on stage. They were not thinking that this was all pretense.
With magic, of course, it ought to be the same. When a trick seemingly goes wrong, the failure must be so well acted that the audience suspends their disbelief and truly feels that you're having problems. But should rhey be pulled from your fantasy world and asked, "Do you really think something went wrong there?" they would answer that it was all just a play, not real trouble.
This is somediing quite different from seeing someone do a failureffecr and, at the moment the false failure is presented, the audience realizes that it is all pretense. When that occurs, suspension of disbelief has been lost. It's vital to the effect that everything, including the apparent failure of the trick, is accepted as a reality—but not as true reality; rather as theatrical reality. This can only be achieved through suspension of disbelief. It could be that suspension of disbelief was never there to start with: not an uncommon occurrence with many magic shows. Or perhaps suspension of disbelief was ruined by unconvincing acting. \ou see, you must be an accomplished actor to create and sustain a suspension of disbelief.
The successful acting of failureffects is not easy. Indeed, acting out these effects is quite difficult. Picture for a moment what happens when you really foul up a trick! Immediately your mind becomes pandemonium, widi many dioughts flying dirough it at incredible speed. On top of this you feel embarrassment, which you most likely will wish to hide. How do yoi i do that? You might make a small joke (probably not a very good one—at such a moment you have no time to come up with a great joke). Writh all this, your mind is probably still too preoccupied to come up with a way to correct your error.
So, then, if you wish to pretend that something has gone wrong, you will have to act out this mental chaos, with all the subde steps. You must let all those thoughts fly through your mind; and all the steps you would normally take, you must take now. I know that those steps usually move at breakneck speed. Yet, when acting, you have to take them all, at that same lightning speed. You can't afford to skip one of them, even when they happen only inside your head, even if you believe that the audience can't know what happens diere. You must do it. Odierwise, believe me, the audience will sense it, and consequently their suspension of disbelief will be ruined. They will leave your carefully constructed dream worid and suddenly your work might look ridiculous, childish.
Failureffects require veiy careful acting, and thus require you to study the feeling of failure with great attention to detail. It is not easy. As I said, these are the toughest effects around to present well!
Besides the acting, it's important that your resulting actions are propedy scripted, that they are one hundred percent nauiral and logical given the circumstances. For if they ring false, even perfect acting wont help you. To achieve true suspension of disbelief its necessary that you spend time carefully considering die construction of the effect.
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