Rob Drummond’s return to Glasgow’s Arches with his one-man show Bullet Catch is something of a lap of honour for the charismatic Scot.
Since premiering his tricksy mix of conjuring and psychology at the venue’s newly-established Behaviour Festival in 2009 he’s travelled the world with the show - wowing audiences and critics alike around Europe, the USA, Asia, New Zealand and Australia. This trick of striking such a universal chord is almost as impressive as the many illusions and sleights of hand in the unique play.
The story concerns a turn-of-the-century magician called William Henderson who died after being shot in the face by an audience member while attempting the infamous illusion which gives the show its title.
As part of the storytelling process an audience member is selected to join Drummond on stage, helping him to perform a few tricks leading up to a live Bullet Catch (where a fired bullet is caught between the teeth) - echoing the events of the tragic night years before.
The always-captivating Drummond teases information out of the (willing) participant, building up a close relationship at a dizzying speed. Letters from the audience member who unwittingly executed Henderson are read out at points, blurring the line between the past and the present, and suggesting that the magician may actually have been complicit in his own death. “I recognised the look in his eyes”, admits the unfortunate shooter.
The huge reliance on the audience members means that the show will be different every night, but the selection process means that it should succeed far more than it fails.
Revealing much more would be a sure way to spoil the show but, suffice to say, the tension builds to an almost unbearable degree. The option of leaving before the end is offered and embraced by some.
A constant subtext battling between fate and free will adds depth. Did the audience member really ‘choose’ to come on stage or was it just the inevitable latest link in a series of involuntary events starting with his own birth?
The result is a startlingly good magic show which has nothing to do with magic - a series of illusions where the main sleight of hand is in revealing human nature.
It’s as original and brave a piece of theatre as anything produced in Scotland in recent years.