Charles Spencer is a well-known theatre critic for the Daily Telegraph (UK). He recently witnessed a magical impalement trick that backfired.
Are these mishaps rare ?
I recall Chris Angel performing a similar routine on an American Morning show. He did a very convincing job as his hand smashed down on the polystyrene cups. He made it look real. As if he could be risking injury.
What might have gone wrong for Marc?
Or is it all part of the show?
The night it went painfully wrong
Charles Spencer reviews Marc Salem: On Second Thoughts at the Tricycle Theatre
"The astonishing mind-reader Marc Salem may well be having second thoughts about his first night at the Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn. Though the auditorium was air-conditioned, the audience seemed stupefied with heat, and things didn't go with their customary zing.
Salem, a plump, bearded professorial American who, making no concessions to the weather, was dressed in a dark, double-breasted three-piece suit, was repeatedly turned down when he sought volunteers. Worse still, several of those who did mount the stage seemed unable to follow the simplest instructions.
Nevertheless, Salem still pulled off some amazing stunts. He memorises a whole deck of cards in seconds, splits it in two, and is able to tell each of the two volunteers exactly what cards they are holding.
He is also able - merely by mental suggestion and the non-verbal communication in which he is an acknowledged world expert - to thwart the contestants in their ambition to pick a briefcase which holds the combination to a safe containing 20,000.
He also has a nice line in dry humour and performs many similar tricks to the more famous Derren Brown without the tedious self-glorification and showbiz hype of the latter. He can stop his own, and other people's, pulses apparently at will, move the hands on someone's watch without touching it, and predict the headline a punter will choose, apparently entirely randomly, from a newspaper.
But things went badly wrong when Simon, a cognitive therapist, volunteered to go on stage. There seemed to be an instant antipathy between the pair, perhaps because Salem gave the impression that he didn't have a particularly high regard for this branch of psychology. Simon seemed miffed, sullen and slow on the uptake. Unfortunately this was the moment when Salem chose to inject an element of danger into the proceedings.
"People sometimes say my show doesn't have enough edge," he confessed, and if you compare his tricks with the stunts of, say, David Blaine, you might think they have a point.
So Salem has a new trick up his sleeve - a sharp kitchen knife which the volunteer fits, blade upwards, into any one of three slots on a block of wood. The three slots are then covered with numbered styrofoam cups. Salem then repeatedly asks whether the knife is under cup 1, 2, or 3.
The volunteer has to answer "yes" in each case, but presumably our mentalist can deduce by manner of delivery and tone of voice which cup contains the knife. He then smashes the other two cups with his fist, before triumphantly revealing the knife underneath the third.
Only on this occasion it didn't work out like that. Cup one was satisfactorily crushed, but with the second, the Salem fist encountered cold sharp steel. Ouch! He took it bravely, went off stage and bandaged up his bleeding hand, then his producer came on and bandaged it up some more while a sweet young boy in the audience volunteered a plaster.
But suddenly the fun seemed to have gone out of the proceedings, and Salem's grand finale routine, which seemed downright miraculous the last time I saw it, lost its pace and point.
It all just proves, I suppose, that it's not always easy to read human minds, however skilled you are, especially if they have been out in the sun all day.
Nevertheless, I retain a high regard for Salem. Not only does his best work make the brain boggle, but he's also a trouper when things go wrong."