It’s the ultimate trick. Persuading an audience member to step up onstage, aim a rifle and shoot it into the mouth of a magician who cheats death and catches the bullet between his teeth. Rob Drummond’s 70-minute Edinburgh Fringe hit ‘Bullet Catch’ climaxes with this tense, unholy deception, which first took place in 1631 and has since caused the grisly demise of several of those who dare to dabble in magic.
But what is Drummond’s show? A play? Fiction? Truth? A night of pure magic? From the moment he arrives onstage in the guise of magician William Wonder, he keeps us guessing. Helped by an assistant plucked from the audience, he talks us through the history of the trick and the moment nineteenth-century magician William Henderson was shot dead by unwitting assistant Charlie Garth while attempting the feat on stage. In a twist to the tale, Garth’s subsequent, tortured letters to his sister make it clear he believes it was Henderson’s intention to be killed that night.
Drummond cuts an awkward figure within the show. He doesn’t have the smooth sleight of hand to make his tricks seem anything but slightly creaky and the night falls oddly between one of pure fun and a philosophical enquiry into whether free will truly exists. The air of mystery he conjures around the story, his own character and the tricks themselves only serve to make the point of the evening all the more vague.
That said, in its best moments this is the antidote to Derren Brown’s high-octane, in-your-face magic, and even if you’re the biggest sceptic, Drummond’s finale will make you squirm.
By Daisy Bowie-Sell