Rob Drummond performs in Bullet Catch. Photo by Megan Verhey.
Rob Drummond performs in Bullet Catch. Photo by Megan Verhey.

Bigger doesn’t always mean better, but when you’ve seen a helicopter disappear on stage before your very eyes it puts most magic tricks that come after to shame. That isn’t to say there isn’t an appetite for smaller illusions, but for them to really have an impact they need to be done with skill and not a little showmanship.

[pullquote]Where Drummond does excel is in the role of mentalist, seemingly plucking thoughts directly from the mind of his volunteer. It was pretty astonishing, even to the point where one of his “predictions” turned out to be more correct than his volunteer at first realized.[/pullquote]In Bullet Catch, theatremaker Bob Drummond obviously has some of the skills necessary, although he didn’t start out as a magician, but on opening night there was little in the way of showmanship.  Drummond is a personable enough guy, but the tension and anticipation that should build towards his ultimate trick just never seemed to materialize.

To be fair, more than simply a performance of magic tricks, Drummond’s central premise in this “play” is to explore the question as to whether it is possible to make someone do something they don’t want to, and whether the idea of free will is only an illusion.

With the help of a willing audience member, Drummond explores those ideas and intertwines his own magic with the story of another magician killed by the very same trick he is about to perform. In that story, Drummond further explores the impact that that death had on the man who pulled the trigger. That conceit is intended to help build the tension to the point where the volunteer contemplates whether they will actually fire the gun at his head, or if they are simply predestined to do so. The problem for Drummond on opening night, was that his volunteer actually spoke aloud what many of us were already thinking: there is no way a live firearm was about to be fired at him on Revue Stage on Granville Island, taking the wind out of his first question.  As for the second, on free will, Drummond spends little time exploring this, preferring to simply dismiss it.

But even as Drummond’s volunteer articulated our own thoughts, his low-key delivery also does little to build to the finale.  Charming and sometimes deprecatingly funny, maybe it is the combination of his Scottish accent and hushed tones, but rather than generating the necessary anticipation and tension, his delivery lacked variety and felt flat.

Along the way Drummond gives us some pretty pedestrian magic tricks. Where he does excel is in the role of mentalist, seemingly plucking thoughts directly from the mind of his volunteer. It was pretty astonishing, even to the point where one of his “predictions” turned out to be more correct than his volunteer at first realized.

One member of the audience decided to leave after being given the opportunity to do so by Drummond just before the bullet catch trick. Assuming that the reason he left really was in anticipation of what was about to happen, I only wish I had been able to experience a tiny fraction of what he felt.

Bullet Catch written and performed by Rob Drummond. Co-directed by Rob Drummond and David Overend. An Arts Club Theatre Company and PuSh International Performing Arts Festival presentation. On stage at the Revue Stage on Granville Island through February 7. Visit http://artsclub.com for tickets and information.