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Review: Master Mentalism - Lior Suchard

Sydney Opera House Playhouse until May 10

What is a “master” anyway? Is it a level of accomplishment or is it an illusion of the observer?

Having been a member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians, with an interest purely in mentalism, I was looking forward to seeing, first hand, the world renowned, self-described Master Mentalist, Lior Suchard, who has performed for Bill Clinton, Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and other celebrities too numerous to mention. He also appeared on Jay Leno several times and bamboozled Larry King on Larry King Live, much to the host’s frustration.

Suchard opened by randomly selecting a woman from the audience and revealing the name of her first crush, first by telling her the number of letters in that name, then the initial, then the name. The slow reveal built the anticipation. On his television show, Larry King preceded Suchard's prediction with, “You’ll never get this…I will flip out if you get this”. He got it. King was mortified.

A man from the Opera House audience thought of his ATM passcode and Suchard did the slow reveal of the four numbers.

The show contained some standard mentalism “bits” such as “The Ghost Touch”, in which the mentalist touches one person on the nose, then the chin, then the lower back, and a person across the stage, with their eyes closed, feels the touch without Suchard going near them. I know how this usually works, but Suchard’s skill concealed the method, if he used the normal method at all.

Another standard is “The Magic Square”, where the mentalist usually asks a spectator to state a number between 22 and 99, then draws a square with 16 boxes, writes a series of numbers in them, then demonstrates how 28 permutations and combinations add up to that stated number. The difference with Suchard is that he only asks the spectator to think of the number rather than state it, and he takes 10 seconds to fill the boxes with numbers. Again, this is a stock mentalist piece taken up several notches.

I’m normally eminently unimpressed by card tricks - “Yep, that was my card. Well done. Good for you.” Suchard performed “The 3 Card Monte”, a routine that flim-flam con artists use to relieve punters of cash. It’s usually executed rapidly and accompanied by the saying, “The hand is quicker than the eye”, but Suchard performed it, under the lens of a close-up camera, extremely slowly and no-one could see “the move”, including a volunteer who was watching centimetres away.

In the billet prediction, the spectator normally writes something on a small piece of paper out of view, and the mentalist tears it up and tells the audience what was written. Suchard made the method look absolutely effortless.

Most impressive was a three-phase routine where one spectator, on a borrowed phone, used the calculator to add a series of numbers nominated alternately by herself and another spectator, then multiplied by a seemingly random number. Suchard then asked another audience member to hand back a scroll that he was given at the beginning of the show. On unrolling the scroll, those eight numbers appeared in order. Yet another spectator was asked to return a twenty-dollar bill given to him by yet another audience member, in a sealed envelope, at the start of the show. The serial number on the bill exactly matched those same eight numbers.

A common theory is that the mentalist has ‘plants’ or ‘stooges’ in the audience, but if this was the case, half of the audience members needed to be set-up, and that would not make for a profitable production. Also, volunteers were often determined by the throwing of a frisbee.

Some people desperately try to work out how he does it and become frustrated when they can’t, and others just appreciate the skill, the talent, the stagecraft, the technique, and observe with child-like wonderment.

The story behind Suchard’s Australian tour is also interesting. Eighteen months ago, Lance Kalish attended a young entrepreneur’s conference in Lake Tahoe and Suchard was on the programme. Kalish was so mesmerised that he approached the mentalist and they became friends. Suchard stated that Australia was one of the few countries he had never been to and would be very keen to perform there. Kalish set about arranging the tour even though he has never been involved in promoting entertainers. His success in business and his networking enabled him to pull it off. This shows what you can do with focus, inspiration, intention and a goal.

Whether you’re a fan of magic or mentalism, or just want to be amazed, astounded and entertained, I can’t recommend Lior Suchard highly enough.

In the words of Jesse ‘The Body’ Ventura, former professional wrestler, wrestling commentator and Governor of Minnesota, “I’m impressed, and I don’t impress easy”.

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