The Second Escape from the Asylum
Waterfall Studios, London
November 16th 2003
Reviewed by Ian Rowland

How much fun can you have on a wet winter Sunday in White City? Quite a lot, as it turns out, provided you have a ticket for the ‘Escape From The Asylum’ mind magic and mentalism day. Last year’s ‘Escape’, organised by Spyros Melaris of the Yahoo ‘Mentalists Asylum’ forum, was a great success, culminating in a truly amazing lecture presentation by the one and only Banachek. Could Spyros repeat that success this year? He could, and he did.

(Photo: Jack Delvin and Spyros Melaris)


Mike Austin got things under way with a series of neat, practical effects which were well-presented, well-performed and well-explained - what more could you ask for? Mike has a warm, relaxed and immediately likeable style, and his experience shone through as did his genuine enthusiasm for the material he shared with us.


Next up was Luke Jermay, author of ‘Seven Deceptions’ – one of the most talked-about mentalism books of recent times. Luke was refreshingly frank about the nature of his lecture. He cheerfully accepted that many of us probably had our doubts as to how practical the ‘Seven Deceptions’ material really was, and so he proceeded to demonstrate that yes, it really does work! With the help of a couple of willing ‘muggles’, Luke presented a set of highly impressive effects based largely, if not entirely, on psychology, careful conditioning of the participants and the power of suggestion. It was, without doubt, a formidable vindication of his unique approach to practical mentalism, and I expect that the adjective ‘Jermay-esque’ will be heard a great deal in the years to come.


Jack Delvin, a huge crowd-pleaser at last year’s ‘Escape’, made a welcome return and gave what was probably the most purely enjoyable lecture of the whole day. Promising to prove his thesis that ‘Derren Brown is the new Tommy Cooper’, Jack shared with us not only his illuminating insights into what mentalism is all about, but also a wide range of practical material ranging from the very new to the so-old-it’s-new-again. When Jack is lecturing, you can always be sure of big laughs and sound advice in equal measure, and this time was no exception.


Next to take the stage was Marc Paul. One of the country’s most successful professional mentalists, Marc has been winning widespread acclaim for his lecture and the corresponding notes. Marc focused on two themes: what he calls ‘triple-A’ mindreading (any time, any place, anywhere), and ‘macro’ effects which can involve an entire room full of people. With considerable flair derived from his substantial experience ‘in the trenches’, Marc presented a polished demonstration of modern, intelligent and highly commercial mentalism which was a joy to watch. Never putting a foot wrong, Marc shared a series of highly effective and practical routines which I’m sure will find a home in the repertoire of most everyone who attended.


Among other things, the Escape day is a celebration of the range and diversity to be found in modern mentalism, and so following Marc – one of the most seasoned of lecturers – came relative newcomer Fon. A highly original thinker, Fon performed an extended routine which, while incorporating some standard ruses, relied primarily for its effect and impact on purely psychological and – dare I say it – ‘Jermay-esque’ presentational techniques. To his credit, not only was Fon able to demonstrate the practicality of his ideas on the ‘muggles’ Spyros had lined up for such purposes, but also to explain how and why these techniques work with great clarity and conviction. Next time someone doubts that you can remove or alleviate someone’s deep-rooted phobia in just a few minutes, all those who saw Fon’s lecture will be able to say they have seen it done!


To have a day devoted to mentalism without an appearance by David Berglas would be unthinkable. To so many of us, David was and is the greatest single inspiration as well as the finest source of tuition by example. Filling the stage with his customary charisma and authority, David presented an enjoyable and impressive routine alloyed from several ‘signature’ Berglas motifs (memory, magician’s choice, calculation, coincidence and prediction). To the delight of everyone in the room, he followed this with a demonstration of his legendary ‘jazz’ card work, inviting seven or eight of those watching to come forward with their own decks of cards which he then put to good use in a well-orchestrated display of mind-reading, ‘coincidence’ and seemingly telepathic control. David is a living legend, and as always to see him work was as much an instruction as it was a pleasure.

Star Lecturer of the Day, Max Maven, began with half an hour of performance-only material delivered in his inimitable style combining sheer class with dignity, fun and apparently effortless performance artistry. Needless to add, Max’s formidably ingenious routines left more than a few of us scratching our heads in bewilderment. Maybe he does it for real – what do we know? This show-in-miniature was followed by a lengthy and highly rewarding lecture featuring numerous tried-and-tested practical effects presented with authority and style and then taught (rather than merely ‘explained’) with great attention to detail. One of the many joys of seeing Max lecture is admiring (and learning from) the thinking that has gone into each fine detail of every routine. In short, the lecture was everything we hoped it would be, and a masterclass in mentalism – its invention, routining, presentation and performance.

Just to round off the day, we were treated to a brief show by Romany, the self-styled Diva of Magic. Romany is one of the most enchanting and delightful magicians you can see anywhere, presenting drop-dead beautiful routines with tremendous grace, wit and what might, in a moment of serious under-statement, be termed theatrical flair. She’s funny, engaging and highly distinctive (see to see what I mean).

Hats off to Spyros for organising yet another highly enjoyable and successful day, and to all his hard-working team at Waterfall Studios for making the whole thing run so smoothly.

© Ian Rowland, November 2003