I was extremely skeptical about the concept of Bullet Catch. It might be good theatre, I thought, but it sounded both gimmicky and exploitative. My doubts were gone by the end of Rob Drummond's performance.
Bullet Catch takes audience participation to a whole new level. While the volunteer is not required to improvise or entertain us, Scottish performer Drummond puts them through a psychological test which bonds the two together and which will convince them to shoot him in the face an hour later. Sounds crazy.
The "play with magic" also tells the story of William Henderson, who died attempting the trick in the 1800s, and of the labourer and audience volunteer who shot him to death. While Drummond purports to be telling us the history of the trick, Henderson is actually fictional. His story is used to heighten the tension and to play up the themes of human connection and free will.
Drummond is good at magic! He reveals which audience volunteer has been chosen simply by the way they answer "yes" to questions which he know to be true or to be false. He guesses the special memory chosen by the volunteer, when it happened and with whom. He survives the bullet catch (at least so far!). He is also funny and affable and has an excellent rapport with the audience.
Perhaps the best part of the show was when Drummond and the volunteer levitate a table together and show that there are no wires. "Do you want to know how it's done?" Drummond asks us. Most members of the audience say yes. A few say no and when questioned, explain that they would rather preserve the mystery of the effect. "Exactly," he says. But he reveals the technique anyway, allowing those who don't wish to know to close their eyes for two minutes. He warns us that we will be sorry when the magic is explained and he is right. Once the illusion is revealed and the props packed away, the marvel is gone. That is how Drummond carries us to the end of the show and why we leave satisfied, not wanting the bullet catch explained.
Bullet Catch plays at the Arts Club Revue Stage in Vancouver until February 7th.