Ben Earl: Trick Artist – Crime

“I am not yet born; O hear me:
Let not the man who is beast or who thinks he is God come near me.”

Louis MacNeice

I am a sucker for magic tricks. The appeal is in trying to work out how it was done, how the illusionist draws your eye here while he does something else over there, how he works his audience. It’s like a murder mystery without the murder and bloody violence.

(Talking of murder mysteries, I have heard a rumour that Sherlock faked his death with the help of Derren Brown. If this is true, I shall be sorely disappointed in Sherlock and in the scriptwriters. Dammit, he’s found his way into another post.)

Where was I? Oh yes, murder and bloody violence. Well, anyway, Ben Earl appears to be the new kid on Magician Block, and, according to the 4OD description, his show features “strong language and dangerous stunts that should not be tried at home.” Just to make sure that everyone knows that jumping between two cars at high speed IS DANGEROUS, PEOPLE!

Earl is an illusionist, which means turning cigarette papers into butterflies and catching bullets in his hand. “I don’t see how he’s actually going to catch a bullet,” says a random member of the public invited along to the bullet-catching facility (which, Earl says mysteriously, is “somewhere in the south of England”; unfortunately, in a later shot, the name “Wiltshire Ballistic Services” is clearly legible. That’s that secret out, then.). Well, Incredulous Member of the Public, I have two things to say to you. a) Have you not seen The Matrix? b) It’s not magic, it’s science. The weakened bullet-proof glass slows down the bullet just enough to make it safe to catch. There was never any real danger of Earl getting his hand pierced.

And that’s the trouble with all these tricks. They’ve all been done before, or they’re simply unspectacular because easily explained. The butterfly one was nice, I will admit, but I couldn’t help comparing everything else with Derren Brown, who does it so much better and so much more cleverly. Earl’s patter often sounds didactic and awkward, and he doesn’t seem personable enough to make the tricks really interesting. You need something more than clever hands to make it on Magicians’ Block.

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