Marc Salem - Mind Games
Hampstead Theatre
October 8th - 28th 2001

Reviewed by Ian Keable

After watching Marc Salem's Mind Games at the Hampstead Theatre you could be forgiven for thinking that Marc Salem had somehow spent so much time performing over the last few years that he had failed to keep up with the present literature. Okay there might be a relatively recent Book Test that somehow crept its way in but in the main it was the props of our fathers, and maybe even our grandfathers, that prevailed. The Magic Square, Nail Writing, Add-a-Number pad and a classic Blindfold routine incorporating the 'reading' of facts about the audience as well as discerning borrowed objects, were amongst the tools that Marc relied upon to bamboozle his awestruck audience. It was enough to make you go back and read Annemann again.

Marc Salem even has the effrontery to go against all the advice that Derren Brown has been freely giving on various Internet sites and putting into practise in his television specials. Derren abhors the stationery cupboard approach to mentalism; Marc revels in it. He is continuously picking up pieces of paper, scribbling things down on pads, getting drawings made on large sheets of board, having people write down information on file cards. And yet it works for him. Naturally. Because his approach is completely believable. You buy into this supposed expert on the human mind, his casual name dropping, his examples of verbal and visual confusion. And you like the guy - he is as non-threatening a performer with as small an ego as it is possible to envisage in a field renowned for its arrogant entertainers. He even tells you that he is not going to embarrass you in any way whatsoever - and actually keeps to his word.

The show lasted one hour and a half without an interval - which for me was a fraction too long. However you certainly get value for money. From the rapid Magic Square to open proceedings, Marc moves at a fast pace through numerous effects (although perhaps not numerous methods!) which makes his running gag of "I'm just warming up" simultaneously amusing and ironic. The audience were flabbergasted and anybody who dismisses it because the methods are so simple are missing the point. At the finish Marc says that "any ten year old could do what he has done - with thirty years of practise" (yes, he is quite keen on corny gags): and he is right. The methods may be within the capabilities of a child: but the showmanship, the slickness and professionalism, the little presentational touches, the show's structure, the comfort zone, the tension building, the perfectly executed ending - well, that is something else.

For anybody remotely interested in mind-reading, this is a 'must-see' show; for anybody remotely interested in performing in any branch of magic, this is a 'must-see' show. Bottom line: go and see it.

Ian Keable, October 2001

Marc Salem - Mind Games
Hampstead Theatre
October 8th 2001

Reviewed by Ian Rowland

It is hard to create a show of first-rate mentalism which wins widespread public and critical acclaim, and which is also highly-regarded among magicians. Marc Salem has done precisely that, and no 'MagicWeek' reader should miss the opportunity to see this consummate performer in action.

Salem offers a rich variety of spellbinding material, without a single playing card in sight. The show includes all his 'trademark' routines, such as the delightful 'Truth or lie' (a pacy re-vamp of pseudo-psychometry) and his exceptional blindfold finale, which left the audience literally gasping in amazement. His faultless showmanship and stagecraft meant the show - 1 hour and 45 minutes - never dragged for a second.

From a magician's point of view, while there is much to admire in this 'mentalism masterclass', the most impressive aspect of the show is Salem's ability to take staples of the repertoire and re-invent them for modern audiences - and to do so with an instinctive grasp of what audiences will, and will not, enjoy.

There is also much to admire in Salem's interaction with the audience. Even when cursed with one or two desperately dull-witted spectators, his expansive charm and unflappable manner - deliciously spiked with a sharp and self-deprecating wit - carried the evening.

The show is a magnificent demonstration of just how enjoyable mentalism can be. Not to be missed.


Ian Rowland, October 2001