A stranger enters a room full of people he does not know and speaks kindly and patiently with them for an hour. By the end of the hour, one of them has agreed to shoot him in the face.
Bullet Catch is more than just a stunt. The backbone of the show is the story of William Henderson, a 19th-century magician who died while performing the infamous trick of catching a fired bullet with one’s teeth. Rob Drummond, our host for the evening, tiptoes amiably between the dramatic retelling of Henderson’s death, conducting mind-reading games with the audience and musing on the philosophical.
The mind-reading games are especially good. Drummond is certainly an accomplished illusionist, prompting more than a few ‘how did he do that?’ moments (although it turns out a magician will sometimes reveal his secrets). His engagement with the audience is particularly commendable. Instantly likeable and trustworthy, he uses the intimacy of the performance space to great effect.
The Shed, a temporary venue based at the National Theatre, has only four rows of seating. There is no shrinking back into the shadows here. The set-up is almost like watching a show in your mate’s living room — except all of a sudden the presenter can read your mind and the pizza guy has just turned up with a firearm.
Ah, the gun. That carefully tailored intimacy and amicability is put to the test the moment a weapon arrives. One moment you are enjoying a rather good magic show with like-minded people, and the next you are in a room full of strangers, one of whom is two paces in front of you holding a loaded gun.
For a play that belongs to a genre heavily involved with smoke and mirrors, Bullet Catch is pleasantly unrefined — you are not separated from the action but part of it. Thrill seekers should go for the danger, thinkers for the philosophy, theatrical types for the drama, those of a curious disposition can go for the magic. And for all you cynics, just go for the Bullet Catch.