The Plot Thickens
(Book) by Oliver Meech 12.49/$21.53 + S&H
8.25 x 11.75, perfect bound with glossy cover, 81 pages, 86 photos
Available at: www.olivermeech.co.uk
The majority of magicians devote most of their time obsessed with the development of novel methods for performing a fairly small number of familiar effects, or plots. Move monkeys and method mavens whip their creative juices into a steaming froth of variations, tweaks and finesses.
But we are rarely treated to new plots.
Oliver Meech is a very clever and wildly creative young man from London. In this, his first book, you will find no new methods. Mr. Meech embraces and adheres to Mike Closes excellent suggestion of a ban on new methods for the most overused plots. (The Road Too Well Traveled, MAGIC
, June 1999.)
But boy oh boy, Mr. Meech has some tasty, new plots in store for you. He offers 22 plots with everything from cards to coins, bottles to bubbles and photos to false teeth. The standard methods employed require an intermediate level of skill.
Mr. Meech writes well and does a fine job of explaining his material. He cites his inspirational sources and provides brief bibliographies of related effects or methods. Each effect includes variations and handling tips.
He possesses a cheeky sense of humor which he doles out at appropriate times. He includes a handy chart for converting British terms to their American equivalents. He provides his participants with names that relate to the plot, and our job is to discover the nature of that relationship. Goofy, fun stuff like that.
The book is laid out well and I enjoy the novelty of it being oversized. A word about the photos. Mr. Meech is left-handed. He tells us, However, for you deviant right-handers out there, Ive flipped the photos of my hands. Unfortunately, this also reverses the card indices.
The pictures take a moment to get used to, but overall they are clear, helpful and plentiful.
Weve got a lot of ground to cover, so lets begin.
: A participant selects a card and holds it against his chest so that no one can see its face. The performer states that the only way to see the face of the card is to look through the participants body. With a snap of his fingers, the performer causes the participant to become invisible. A second participant stands behind the invisible participant, looks right through him and correctly names his card.
Youll need to gently manage the second participant to ensure that she plays along. With little more than a nod and a wink, youll enlist the crowd to act as if the participant is really invisible. The scenario is ripe with humorous, entertaining potential. This is a terrific, novel effect!
Cardboard Birthday Cake
: The participant, who is celebrating her birthday, selects a card and signs its face. On the back of the card, the performer draws a birthday cake with a lit candle. The performer leads the crowd in singing Happy Birthday to the birthday girl. He then holds the card face-up under the participants mouth. She makes a wish and blows on the card to blow out the candle. The participant turns over the card and discovers that the candle flame is now extinguished.
This is a cool birthday party effect, and the participant is left with a magical memento of her special day. You must pocket the deck to clean up the dirty work, but if youre performing this as a one-off effect, this wont pose a problem. I like it.
Correctional Facility (Business Card
): The performer writes the date on his business card and gives it to a participant. She informs him that the date is wrong. He instructs her to rub the card on her clothing. She does so and discovers that the date has magically corrected itself.
This effect employs the Out to Lunch principle. Mr. Meech includes a well motivated handling by Paul Henri that should reduce the participants thoughts of a switch. Frankly, I lost all interest in the Out to Lunch principle several decades ago. From an aesthetic standpoint, binding your business cards with a rubber band looks cheap and unprofessional. I dont like it.
Correctional Facility (Playing Card
): At the end of any effect using a card whose face has been signed, the performer writes the date on the back of the card and tables it face-up. The participant informs the performer that the date is wrong. The participant rubs the card on the table and the date magically corrects itself.
The good news is that this effect does not employ the Out to Lunch principle. The bad news is that prior to the conclusion of the effect, you must pocket the deck to conceal the dirty work.
That handling suggests that this will be your closing effect, unless you plan to clean up the deck, retrieve it from your pocket and continue your performance. If thats the case, then the crowd will be understandably suspicious about why you pocketed the deck in the first place. Theyll know that something sneaky happened, even if they dont know exactly what occurred.
If this is your closing effect, then it will probably be anticlimactic to whatever signed card effect that preceded it, such as Card to Pocket, Ambitious Card, Torn & Restored, etc. I dont like it.
Not Seeing the Wood for the Trees
: After numerous failures at locating a selected card, the layout of rejected cards is seen to spell the name of the card.
A hefty prearranged stack is required. If your participant is facing you and you follow Mr. Meechs instructions for stacking the deck and performing the effect, the resultant image of the selected card will be upside down and incomprehensible from your participants perspective.
To resolve this problem, have your participant stand beside you, facing in the same direction. Or you can alter the stack or the layout. I like it.
Telling Your Ace from Your Elbow
: The performer displays a scribbled ink design near his elbow. When he bends his arm, the scribble transforms into an image of a previously selected card.
Obviously, the card must be forced, and you must be willing to write on your arm. I stopped intentionally writing on myself in the 4th grade, and I have no intention of regressing to that prior level of development. Despite my cranky rigidity, I think that this revelation is clever and I like it.
Fish Bowl Coin Illusion
: A coin with a drawing of a fish on one side and a bowl on the other is spun, creating the illusion that the fish is in the bowl. The coin is spun again and when it stops, the fish has jumped from one side of the coin to the other, so that it is now actually in the fish bowl.
This is Mr. Meechs close-up spin on the Bird Cage Optical Illusion, which was popular in the 19th century. It first appeared in Jim Sistis Magic on the Menu column in the November 2003 issue of MAGIC. This effect is a delight to perform and the crowds reactions are all that you could hope for. I really like it.
: The performer holds a coin in his right fist and a sugar cube in his left fist. The participant can feel that the sugar cube is in the performers left fist. Yet, instantly and with no moves, the objects switch places.
This effect is very cool and diabolically clever. I really like it.
: The participant initials a coin, which the performer throws into his mouth, causing him to swallow it. The performer displays an x-ray of the participants stomach that reveals the initialed coin within.
Mr. Meechs creativity really shines through in this effect. This is a unique, delightful piece of close-up theater. I really like it.
: An initialed coin vanishes and is found inside an opened beverage can.
I dislike this effect for several reasons. First, the method is potentially dangerous. Mr. Meech issues a warning and states that he accepts no responsibility for injuries sustained by anyone who performs the effect. He goes so far as to urge the reader to only practice or perform the effect in the presence of others. So if something goes wrong, someone can provide medical assistance or call 911. Now theres a comforting thought!
Mr. Meech acknowledges that the method may be seen by some members of the audience (potential rescuers). He doesnt offer any substantive advice on how to overcome this potential exposure.
On two occasions, Mr. Meech states that the coin is found in a sealed can. This is simply untrue. Prior to the revelation, the coin cannot be heard rattling around inside the sealed can. The can must be opened before the coin is loaded, and the coin must be smaller than the mouth of the can.
If you want to perform a signed coin to sealed can effect, buy Wayne Houchins superlative version.
Free Money in Every Pack
: The performer borrows a coin and writes the date on it. He inserts the coin into a vending machine and buys a candy bar. He removes the candy bar from the machine and immediately hands it to a participant. The participant opens the candy bar and discovers the marked coin inside the wrapper.
This effect is worth the price of the book. It is fabulous in every regard. I love it!
: The performer writes a prediction on his business card, stating that he has written a number between 1 and 10. He blows a bubble and instructs his participant to study the swirling surface of the bubble until she gets an impression of a single digit. She announces her number. The performer hands her his business card and she discovers that his prediction is correct.
Bubbles are inherently fun and rather magical. Mr. Meech has combined bubbles with time-honored mentalism methodology to produce a cool effect that essentially occurs in the mind of the participant as well as in the minds of the spectators. I like it.
: The performer states that he and the crowd are going to play a version of charades using peoples names. He instructs a participant to shuffle two dozen cards bearing different names. He turns his back to the throng as the participant chooses a name known only to her. The performer turns back around and apparently divines the name by staring into his participants eyes. He then performs a charade for the crowd, and they determine the participants selected name. The participant informs the performer that the name is incorrect. The performer smiles a cheesy grin, revealing the correct name written on his teeth.
This effect has a lot going for it. Its fun and surprising; it features a magician in trouble segment; and it involves the entire audience. I like it.
: A participant randomly marks some words on a piece of paper, and they form a famous quote that the performer predicted.
Mr. Meech graciously includes a full page grid of random words that you can copy and use. Or, with a bit of thought, you can create your own. He wisely suggests printing your contact information on the word grid, so that your participant gets a combined souvenir and business card. I like it.
Spin the Bottle
: The performer correctly predicts who the bottle will point to in a game of Spin the Bottle.
Whats not to like about this plot? It holds a lot potential for merriment, scandal and possibly physical violence. I like it.
: A participant selects a card from a stack of two dozen cards bearing the names of Beatles songs. He initials either side a plectrum (pick) and launches into an air guitar performance of his chosen song. The plectrum never leaves his hand. After a humorous bit by the performer, the name of the chosen song appears on the plectrum.
Air guitar! How cool is that? With an outgoing, musically-informed participant in a suitably rowdy environment, this could be a ton of fun. I really like it.
: The participant looks around the room and chooses an object. By purportedly watching the participants eyes while she recites the I Spy rhyme, the performer correctly identifies the chosen object.
I never played I Spy as a kid. Perhaps this is a sign of early, traumatic deprivation. Who knows? I feel okay now. Anyway, after doing some quick research, Ive learned the game and now conclude that I like the effect.
: A participant believes that she has signed a contract on the back of the performers business card. She discovers that she didnt because the contract is blank and the pen cap cannot be removed.
This is Mr. Meechs contribution to the it was all an illusion or turning back time genre of effects. It is designed to be performed at the conclusion of other types of these effects. He suggests ways of incorporating it with his Fishbowl Coin Illusion and Paul Harriss Solid Deception. Its a cool effect and your participant goes home with your memorable business card. I like it.
Every Flavor Jelly Beans
: The performer tables an opaque film canister. A participant makes two random marks on a leaflet listing 50 jelly beans. The participant notes which jelly beans she blindly selected on the leaflet. She opens the film canister and finds two jelly beans of her chosen flavors.
This is essentially Random Poetry with jelly beans. I prefer it to that effect because its a bit quicker and your participant gets to eat jelly beans. And thats important.
: A participant stares at a piece of paper she is holding and it bursts into flames.
I tried this effect on my wife and she quickly deduced a close approximation of the method. Then she got pissed at me for smoking up the kitchen. Mr. Meech acknowledges that some may feel that the method is too obvious. Well, Im one of them.
In order to perform the effect, you need to bring a bucket of water with you or perform it near a sink full of water. Where are you supposed to perform this effect? In your clients kitchen or bathroom? Or do you really want to lug around a bucket when youre not performing the Misers Dream? Clearly, this is designed for an informal performance in your home or the home of a friend. This is a clever idea that doesnt hold up in the real world. I dont like it.
On With His Head
!: Several photographs are shown, including one in which the subjects head was accidentally chopped off. The performer taps the photograph on the table and knocks the image down a bit so that the subjects head can now be seen.
Mr. Meech knocks another one out of the park. I love it!
: When asked to write their name and email address on one of your business cards, the participant selects the only one that hasnt already been written on.
Mr. Meech based this effect on Doc Easons advice that when someone asks for your business card, you should ask for their contact information instead, so that you are in control of making contact and can add their information to your mailing list.
I have the utmost respect for Mr. Eason and Im sure that his idea is a terrific marketing tool, but when someone asks for my business card, I give it to them. I would never consider asking a stranger for their name and email address because that request may make them feel uncomfortable. Thats just not my style. Because I dont like the underlying premise, I dont like Mr. Meechs effect.
Secret Service Load
: The performer divines the serial number of a bill while it is still inside a complete strangers wallet. The performer never touches the bill or the wallet.
Mr. Meech takes a well know bar swindle and launches it into the stratosphere. Oh my God, this is a devastating effect! It too is worth the price of admission. This is not an anytime, anywhere type of effect. You must be patient and lay in wait on coiled haunches until the time is right. Then you pounce upon a complete stranger and thoroughly traumatize them with this life changing demonstration! I love it!
I thoroughly enjoyed The Plot Thickens
and Im very impressed with Mr. Meechs creativity. Buy this book!