Friday, May 4, 2012

Two NEW Books Coming and REVIEW: Astor Epic

Hello loyal readers!

Before I get to this week's review, I want to tip you all on TWO new books I'm releasing. The first will be a book on producing demo videos for your work very inexpensively yet effectively and the second book will be Volume 3 of my Cause & Effects series! Keep your eyes open for a pre-release special on both books sometime in the next week or two!

On to this week's review: Astor Epic by Astor. It's available for $298.95 from Hocus Pocus.

EFFECT: It's the classic Mental Epic for the 21st Century! You ask one spectator to think of three pieces of information (or you ask three spectators to think of one piece of information each) and you write down your prediction for each piece of information and cover it with one of the number slides.

After each prediction is written (and covered) and the answers are written openly, one by one you reveal that your predictions were exactly a match. NO double writing, NO sleight of hand and NO forces!

WHAT YOU RECEIVE: You receive the gimmicked board, a dry erase marker, DVD instructions.

QUALITY OF BOARD: The board is gimmicked up the wazoo, but the board is built VERY well. With proper care, this will last a long time. In other words, don't throw it at the bottom of your road case!

QUALITY OF INSTRUCTIONS: I found the DVD instructions to be adequate. Production value was nothing to write home about, just a simple one camera shoot. The lighting could have been better, but you can see and understand everything. Fortunately, the workings are simple enough that learning this is not an issue. The written instructions (and accompanying pictures) are well-written, but due to the nature of the effect you get a lot of "Panel A, Panel C," and so forth, which reads very boring-ly! (Yes, I know that's not a word!)

EASE OF USE: This is where this prop really shines - the working is so easy it's disgusting. I rehearsed with this for about a week, practicing over and over, maybe 100 times or so before I performed it for the first time this week. Honestly, a person could almost - ALMOST - do this right out of the box. I hate saying that because even the simplest effect needs good blocking, scripting, motivation and also getting the physical movements of the routine into your muscle memory so you don't hesitate. That being said, this is a dream. There is, however, one trade off...

THE ONE DRAWBACK: For a pure mentalist, this board definitely looks like a prop. The fact that the numbered covers slide up and down may be even more worrisome to some mentalists. Plus the board cannot be examined.

Personally,  I feel that for 99% of all stage work (and much closeup work as well) the whole "can it be examined" things is wayyyy over rated. I've lost count of how many times in a stage effect where I'll have a volunteer on stage and give them the opportunity to shuffle an ungimmicked deck of cards and the person doesn't do it.

Previously, I owned Richard Osterlind's Ultra Board, which was another way to do Mental Epic type routines without forcing anything. Osterlind's Board was very nice, and it was ungimmicked, meaning it could be examined, but I like the working of this board much better. There are NO suspicious actions and the entire time you're doing the routine, you are actually writing where you're supposed to be writing, so eagle-eyed spectators won't see your hand position shifting.

THE FINAL WORD: The real test is, how does this fly in the real world? I'm proud to say that I performed this for one of the hardest audiences there is - 200 surly middle-school kids! The group was around 12 years old. They were supposed to be a little older, but the client changed things on me, and despite this little snag, I can report that Astor Epic KILLED. There were gasps, spontaneous applause, and the volunteer I used looked legitimately shaken. Great first performance!

So, a mentalist looking for completely innocent looking 'props' may shy away from this, but for me, it's the perfect solution to a routine I've been considering for years, having owned different Boards in my day.

If you get the opportunity, go to Youtube and check out various demos of this product. I was completely clueless on how the third prediction was accomplished until mine came in the mail.

RATING: This gets a 9 out of 10. It's just about perfect and I do love it. It looks like a magic prop, but that's the only 'drawback.'

NEXT WEEK: I rate Peter Loughran's fantastic Jitters package! Stay tuned...

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