Wednesday, 5 February 2003

Marc Salem's Mind Games, Feb 5, 2003

Marc Salem's  Mind Games  
 Malthouse  February 5 to 23, 2003
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Marc Salem, in Mind Games, is audacious, confronting, charming - and wildly entertaining.  He reads minds. He insists he does no such thing but as far as we, the audience, are concerned, he reads minds.

The beauty is that Salem explains how he does it, that it is not occult. Then he blinds us with extraordinary and inexplicable deductions. We leave gob-smacked by his mysterious capacity. The show is exciting, compelling, hilarious and dramatic, all in ninety swift minutes.

Mind Games is not like Crossroads,  from American television.  Salem is an American psychologist who studied human behaviour and psychology for thirty years.

He talks at machine gun pace, peppering his banter with gags, ad-libs and snippets of explanatory notes on his method. He appears to demystify the process. Then he turns us on our heads with his spooky penetration of people's thoughts.

He begins with warm up number games.  He tosses his 'randomiser"  - a scrunched ball of paper - to three audience members who each think of a number. Somehow, the digits he wrote down beforehand replicate those of the audience members.

Much of his work has a strong visualisation component. "Think of a table, a vase, see a flower in it. What colour is the flower?" He teased a few celebrities in the crowd but was disinclined to use them on stage.

Salem, like a comedian, integrates random events. A mobile phone rings. He asks the unwitting caller to pick three numbers. Salem is correct again. He compels his on stage guests to think of a word chosen secretly from a book and then each letter of the word. He astounds us by guessing all three accurately.

Five others draw sketches. He guesses who drew which picture by asking them to deny they drew any of them. Amazing to our untrained eyes. He charms and chats as he predicts an addition of numbers that were written on a paper by randomly selected audience members.

But the piece de resistance has to be the finale. He is blind-folded. He invites two doctors to join him. ("It's a pair-a docs!" he quips.) One, ironically, is a celebrated research psychiatrist. Each borrows interesting objects from the audience.

Salem, still blind-folded, astounds us by describing personal objects held under his hand.  He simultaneously details holiday destinations written down by several people. Gob smacking, I say. See him.

By Kate Herbert

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