Review – Bullet Catch, National Theatre

Saturday 25 May 2013

Rob-Drummond-Bullet-Catch-World-Tour-webRisk-averse? Us? No, no no. As recently as a few years ago the Whingers went white water rafting (well, brown water rafting, really) and only weeks ago went on Stealth at Thorpe Park (although Andrew did have to exercise a little last minute cajoling to get Phil on board). Obviously they survived to tell the tale, though had Phil not plumped for quad-biking in the dunes over Andrew’s suggestion of skydiving in Namibia it may well have been an entirely different story. Perhaps the Whingers have Phil’s fumbling in the recesses of cautiousness to thank for their longevity.

Generally though the Whingers’ risk-taking is limited to parting with money for untried, untested shows or, ipso facto, anything at the now defunct Cottesloe Theatre. But since its temporary replacement, The Shed, was offering “a unique theatrical experience featuring mind reading, levitation and, if you’re brave enough to stay for it, the most notorious finale in show business.” they just had to be there.

And when Rob Drummond asked for volunteers for his entertainment both waved their hands eagerly – like swots at the back of the class wishing to impress Sir – hoping it might be one of their fingers on the trigger in “a stunt so dangerous Houdini refused to attempt it, the Bullet Catch has claimed the lives of at least 12 people since its conception in 1613.” Oh yes, we both reached for The gun, the gun, the gun, the gun.

Sadly, we weren’t selected. Drummond whittled down his potential assistants with a series of qualifying questions until “Have you had one too many drinks?” did for us. 

Unfortunately the woman who joined him on stage was supremely relaxed and self-assured on stage (how unlike Phil when he assisted Paul Daniels). Did Drummond spot a quality in her that was lacking in the Whingers? Now, of course, we NEVER talk during a performance but Phil just had to hiss to Andrew “She’s an actress”. And so it proved. Or at least she was until she eschewed the stage for banking. Once an actress always an actor actress, no wonder she confessed her ambition to return to theatre.

Her on-stage poise rather worked against this performance. Some may have thought she was a stooge. Not us. We’ve seen many of these tricks – or variations of – before. Some are mind-boggling; we have no idea how he does the mind-reading stunts, a word chosen at random from a pile of books or the details of an important memory from life that she was asked to remember.

He also offers us the chance to see how he does his levitation trick. Andrew was one of those raising his hand when the audience were offered the chance not to be party to its secret explaining when asked why by the illusionist that he “wanted to maintain the wonder of it”. So Andrew covered his eyes as the mystery was silently “revealed”. Phil kept his open (unlike at the 205 ft top of Stealth), though he isn’t at all convinced we weren’t really shown how the effect was actually achieved; it seemed too obvious.

The build up to the finale was a roller coaster of anticipation. Drummond increased the tension by offering us the chance to leave or again cover our eyes. One woman buried her face in lap the of the person sitting next to her. We assume they knew each other.

When the moment came it was, of course, all over very quickly. A bullet is so small we had to rely on the ex-actress to assure us the one “caught in his teeth” was the same marked one. There were too many opportunities to switch it. For us it proved something of a damp squib.

Whilst Drummond has a likeable low-key stage persona, there’s a bit too much time wasted in the build up, too many times when the volunteer has to read out passages  (it’s just as well we weren’t selected, the print on the papers she had to read from looked too small for us to run our unsteady fingers along it) and a bit too much psychobabble to make what is essentially a magic show acceptable for the NT intelligentsia. As agreeably entertaining as it was, we were left slightly wanting. Wanting that is, a more charismatic flamboyance of a Derren Brown or a Pete Firman or a Chris Cox or Paul Daniels.

Of course in Edinburgh (where this sold out) we’d probably have awarded a 4 or 5, but as it is…


And if you aren’t, like Phil, hooked on the guilty pleasures of variety that crop up in Britain’s Got Talent, here’s a more impressive levitation act that was also somewhat superior to the “painting” donkey and “dancing” racoon that also appeared on last Saturday’s show.



One Response to “Review – Bullet Catch, National Theatre”

  1. Dominick Says:

    Eww you were there the same night as me! Totally agree that the ending and exposure let it down.

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