In Trouble



You know, sometimes tricks go wrong. 


Not wrong wrong. Not properly wrong. Not “need to rethink my job” kind of wrong. Not likely to maim a spectator kind of wrong. Pretend wrong. A build up the suspense kind of wrong that leads to a better denouement. 


It’s actually a known thing in magician circles – it’s called the “magician in trouble” plot. Used sparingly, it can be quite effective. (Use it too much and you look like an inept buffoon mind. Be careful)


The premise is that the trick hasn’t worked. You’re in trouble. You’ve lost the card, you can’t read their mind, the rabbit has impaled itself on a large spike and your dove has caught fire. You get the idea. Then, just as you’ve been written off as a bit of an amatuer, you pull it out of the bag. The card appears in the spectator’s wallet. You show you had predicted their thought before they even thought of it.  And the animals breathe a sigh of relief. (Note to potential customers, I’m not an animal kind of magician – they were just an example. I favour a slim fitting waistcoat ensemble to perform in and don’t have the roomy pocket space required for livestock)


Done well, a good “magician in trouble” ploy can be disarming.


It’s actually particularly good for the younger generation. If I find myself surrounded by kids at a gig, a bit of “magician in trouble” goes down a storm. Kids, you see, have no qualms in telling you you suck. Seeing the magician make a mistake is actually quite satisfying for them. It’s not uncommon to have pointing, laughing and “loser” symbols at this point. And when you finally deliver the moment of magic, it’s a great “Fuck you” moment. (Note to potential customers, I don’t swear at kids. Or at any spectators for that matter. It’s just that swearing in blogs is terribly fashionably right now)


“Hmm Jack, this is all very fascinating. I love it when you go on about magic theory.” I suspect you’re pondering, “Are there any other places where the ‘in trouble’ ruse works?”


Well, I’m glad you asked…


Films love a bit of “protagonists are in trouble”. Think Ocean’s Eleven. It looks like it’s all gone wrong. And then, it turns out it was all part of the plan. Every time I watch it (and that’s quite regularly – I consider it homework for planning a casino heist of my own) I think, “I bet the script writer was a magician.”


Football managers know this too. A good manager will always instruct their team to fall behind 0-2 by half time so they can heighten the suspense in the fans. Winning 3-2 is all the more satisfying for that “football team in trouble” feeling. 4-0 victory? No thanks! (Note to self, check this before publishing. You know your football knowledge is shady at best)


Anywhere else? Anyone or anything in trouble right now? Hell Yeah!


Donald Trump. Can’t deny it Donny, you’re in a little bit of bother right now. (not that I suspect he’ll read this. He’s still seething over me mocking his teeny tiny hands)


Polar bears. They are properly feeling it right now.


Oh yeah. And a sizeable chunk of the UK population.


All thinking the same thing right now…


“I do hope the script writer’s a magician”