Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Shakespeare Experiment

Howdy loyal readers!

Cris Johnson here, back with a new product review, but first, a little housekeeping...

First - the contest to name my soon-to-start online ezine is still going on. Send your suggestions to crisjohnsoninfo@verizon.net and win a FREE copy of my soon-to-be-completed book on performance, real-world routines, magic philosophy and more. The contest will most likely be extended to March, as I've been having trouble finishing the book - so busy performing!

Here in the U.S., many people are whining about the economy. Me, I'm not seeing it. I'm SLAMMED by gigs and it's great.:)

On to this week's review...

This week it's The Shakespeare Experiment, a fantastic book test available for $300 from Hocus Pocus. You can read the details here: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/inc/product_detail.cfm?item=10855

WHAT YOU RECEIVE: A beautiful, thick hardcover book that's labeled as the complete works of Shakespeare. You also receive a CD with written instructions, routine ideas and more.

QUALITY: This book is absolutely gorgeous. So many book tests are cheaply made, but this one would look wonderful on a collector's book case. I'm not a magic collector, but if I was, this would go on a shelf. The CD instructions are very complete and very well written, but the one complaint I have is that it's white text against a black background. I don't care for reading on a computer - tough on the eyes - so unless you want to kill an ink cartridge, you've got to read this on a computer. That REALLY bugged me, and since it's in PDF, you can't cut-n-paste and change the text.

ANGLES: This book test can be done surrounded, as there are no peeks involved.

EFFECTS: This book allows users to do one word revelations, phrase and full sentence revelations, picture revelations (also drawing duplications) and so much more. What's really neat about this is the fact that you can simply hand the book to someone, ask him/her to open the book and start mind reading. No page numbers needed. It's that simple - they open the book and you start reading minds.


Additionally, the multi-sentence type revelations REALLY blow people's minds away. I've used this test in front of 500 high school kids and in my opinion, there is not a tougher age group out there. Guess what?

They LOVE it. (Of course, this all depends on your character and performance.)

I also really like the fact that the multi-sentence revelations are actual Shakespearian text. I know this because I was performing this for a small group of 30 teens and several recognized the text being revealed. This is a great benefit that cannot be overstated.

Another benefit of this product is the fact that you can do so many styles of revelations. It's not just a single word. Brad Henderson once wrote that the big problem with book tests is the fact that the subject matter of the book is overlooked. By using Shakespeare, you can really make the subject matter come to the forefront of your presentation. I myself innocently announce, at one point in my corp show, "This is where I try to inject a bit of culture into the show."

FORCING: Many book tests rely on guiding (gently or otherwise) spectators to certain sections of the book. Shakespeare is no different, but the guiding/forcing is very natural - there's no adding of page numbers, no counting down lines, or anything like that. The guiding feels open and fair, again with the right presentation. Also, as long as your instructions are clear, you'll "hit" every time you reveal something, as opposed to the Mother of All Book Tests, where spectators can follow your instructions precisely yet still pick a "wrong" word. This, for me, is a huge advantage. Also, you're not just guiding people to "the first word on the page." That's a factor here, but other revelations also let spectators go to different page sections.

Just to reinforce what I wrote earlier, I LOVE the fact that page numbers are not needed to start revealing stuff. AWESOME.

RELIABILITY: You can let spectators look at the book somewhat freely for a few moments but it will not stand up to close scrutiny. Therefore, if you're new to mentalism or performing at all, you'll need to work on your audience management skills. It's not a really big deal, but you'll have to pace your performance to 'hurry along' the quick flip-through of the book without acting as though you're trying to hide anything. It's one of those delicate aspects of performance that's difficult to explain - the harder you try to do it, the less likely it is to work. Weird.

COMPARISON TO THE MOAB: OK, I've used the Mother of All Book Tests and I know comparisons between the two are going to be at the forefront of potential buyers' minds. In my opinion, and this is JUST my opinion, but I feel the Shakespeare Experiment is superior for several reasons. First of all, unless you're going to repeat the effect, MOAB is the same effect - just a one word revelation. Sure, you can dress it up and reveal things in different ways, but it's still a one word reveal.

The Shakespeare Experiment allows you to reveal one word, full passages and much more. It's a great deal more versatile.

Second, the Shakespeare book is a recognizable book. In other words, people will accept it as legit because nearly everyone over a certain age has at least heard of Shakespeare. This also helps in the revelations, as I mentioned before, because actual Shakespeare text and passages are used in the effects.

Purists may argue that you can slap a book jacket to a recognizable book over MOAT and while that helps, the recognizable Shakespeare text is more convincing.

Again, it's just my opinion, but I prefer the Shakespeare book, even though both are spectacular.

MEMORY: Many book tests require memorization in some fashion and Shakespeare is no different. You'll need to remember certain passages and a few words. Two innocent-looking cribs are provided, making this REALLY easy if you do not want to use your memory, although I should mention that the instructions provide you with several mnemonics to help memorize certain things. (Mnemonics, in case you didn't know, are essentially memory hooks using exagerated or outrageous imagery to 'stick' in your mind easier. It's a skill that's beneficial above and beyond performing.)

DURABILITY: It's a book, so don't spill coffee on it. I actually sewed up a fleece bag with a drawstring to protect it from getting scuffed up during transport to gigs.

MARKETS: I use it for high school, college and corp gigs of all sizes. Don't do this at your daycare shows.:) I do want to point out that some of the one-word revelations are rather risque and/or dirty and not suitable for all markets, but the unique flexibility of this product allows you to completely avoid these and play it straight.

OVERALL: This plays GREAT for me at paid gigs of all shapes and sizes. I'll give this a 9.5 out of 10. This gets a GREAT reaction when performed well, but I'm taking off .5 because of the instructions. I REALLY like this a LOT and feel it's one of the best book tests out there.

I also want to stress that while I feel this is awesome, it's not a "take it out of the box and perform it" kind of effect. It's best if you have experience performing mindreading type of effects with a comfortable grasp of audience management skills.

Until next week...


Cris Johnson

1 comment:

  1. White text on a black background. Looks a little familiar...