As mind readers, it can be difficult to come across deceptively (due to the nature of methodology that we use). Therefore, we can often be found to utilise pre show in our performances in order to make them seem more deceptive to our audiences.
However, pre show isn’t always available to us as a tool due to environment, or circumstances. For example, if you were to arrive late to your performance for whatever reason, then one could not employ pre show work due to lack of time. For some, this could be a huge issue as the whole atmosphere of their performance could fall apart – especially if the act relies on information gathering for several effects.
Of course, pre show would eradicate the laborious process of having a participant write down or select information every time (of course providing a justification for the reason as to why they have to write the information down); but if you haven’t been able to utilise pre show, then what can be done?
Derren Brown, in his limited works and private interviews released into our industry, often discusses ‘visual compromise’. If, as mentalists, we can minimise visual compromise in our performances, then we can be perceived as more incredible by our audiences.
*By visual compromise, Derren is referring to a selection process (whether it be of a playing card or a thought), or indeed, the writing down process.*
That isn’t to say that we should only do propless effects; as Peter Turner and several others have suggested in interviews or works, combining propless effects with propped effects works very well because the methods will cancel each other out.
However, at this point I’m not just going to tell you to combine propless effects with propped ones. No. I understand that some people do not favour using propless effects, so do not worry – there is another solution. This solution can be used also in conjunction with propless effects – in fact, that is exactly what you’ll find me doing in my own performances.
The solution is somewhat rather simple. It’s all in the way that you structure your act. The structure is essentially to have any process with said prop (the one that you wish to make psychologically invisible) over with as early as possible. So for example, having the writing filled out early on, then performing other unrelated effects in order to bring attention away from the writing (creating time misdirection). Later on in the performance is when the information is revealed or utilised.
A great use for this formula would be a confabulation effect where you seemingly do not know the information until the very end, when in reality you peek it right near the beginning and somewhere within the act you fill it in.
The time delay between the writing and utilisation of the information can help in making the billet become psychologically invisible. Derren, in many of his shows, will have information written out in the audience, then bring the person up on stage and perform another effect on them. This writing is then brought back and utilised later on (sometimes even at the very end of the show), when many have forgotten about the fact that it was written.
There are some linguistic ploys that can be used to make the writing seem invisible. The ‘Scrap It Principle’ from Mark Chandaue, and ‘Thought Unlinking’ by Michael Murray are both great ways of doing this. I will not explain these here for obvious reasons.
One method that I repeatedly use, is reframing the effect before the reveal. Instead of recapping and saying:
“You wrote this information as proof for the end, and it has been isolated this whole time!”
I will instead create a false memory with a reframe. All that needs to be done, is for the billet to be disregarded or destroyed.
Later on, when referring to the thought after the reveal, do so by saying:
“This thought existed only in your head, you were merely thinking of it right?”
You’re participant will agree at this point because you have discarded the billet early on. What this has the potential to do, is make the spectators misremember the effect to be more impossible than it in fact was.
False memories are so easy to employ and really heighten how the spectators will recall effects that you showed them. One little line of scripting can make a huge difference with how effects are remembered.
A quick anecdote for you about false memories to exemplify their use:
I was performing at my residential gig, where I guessed a name that the spectator had written down (it was the name of his dog if I remember correctly). By using a small reframe, similar to the one outlined above, I had him misremember the effect and completely forget the fact that he had written the information down.
The following week, this particular spectator was there in the restaurant again. He called me over and asked me to guess the name of his friends dog, who he had brought with him. So, I pulled out a stack of billets and had his friend write down the name (justifying the reason for writing the information down). The spectator who had seen me the week before proclaimed ‘I never had to write anything down though’. As you can imagine, a massive smile spread across my face at this point – that was the first time I had ever employed a false memory. The funny thing with this was that I’d given the spectator the billet to take home with them the week before (because it was my business card)! Ironically enough, the spectator’s nickname amongst his friends was ‘Billet’ and had been for years!
I think that this just goes to show the power of a singular line of scripting – the spectator can completely misremember an effect.
Not absolutely everyone will forget about the billet, but 9/10 people will never mention it. When utilising the structure of time delay between writing and utilisation, the spectators are even more likely to ‘forget’.
I feel an act can be structured rather more deceptively to create the best structure for this. For those interested, an additional pdf can be obtained by emailing me (my email is at the bottom of this article), which will outline an in depth structure and act break down that I use myself. Methodology will not be explored, however the pieces are ones of which that many of you will already be familiar with.
This is the structure I always aim to follow in my own performances.
To sum up, there is a writing of information, then a HUGE time delay before it is revealed (the time between being filled with other effects).
This structure really does amplify your performances; having that time delay between the writing of the information and revealing, with effects inbetween, often causes the spectators to dismiss or sometimes forget the writing process (providing of course that the writing is presented and deemed by you as unimportant).
As previously mentioned, Mark Chandaue’s ‘Scrap It Principle’, and Michael Murray’s ‘Thought Unlinking’ are great ways of having something written and then dismissed completely in the spectator’ minds. These can be found in Mark’s wonderful book ‘Harpacrown’ and Michael’s equally as amazing ‘A Piece Of My Mind’ respectively.