On June 14th, 2014, I was witness to someone getting shot in downtown Toronto in front of a crowd of about 100. No, I wasn’t in the entertainment district near a dance club, I was attending Bullet Catch, a magic show and philosophical performance hybrid that was engaging from the first moment to the last.
The performance was brilliantly written and orchestrated by Ron Drummond. Staged in the upstairs portion of the Berkeley Street Theatre, Drummond becomes William Wonder, a magician telling the story of William Henderson, a magician from 100 years ago who was killed performing the Bullet Catch: a magic trick where a volunteer from the audience shoots a gun at the magician’s face and the magician tries to catch it with his teeth. Henderson died when the trick was performed, leading Wonder to explore the deeper meaning of this trick, and that perhaps it wasn’t an accident as it may have seemed.
Similar to Henderson, Wonder chose a volunteer from the audience. He did not just randomly select the volunteer as many others do. He instead added the element of the human connection to establish which volunteer he believed to have the greatest connection to. His volunteer was Edmund, an investment banker. Throughout the show, Wonder would perform tricks using Edmund as his “partner.” He would ask Edmund things about his personal life and things he believed in (philosophically and spiritually). He also asked him to select one of the three key words that Henderson originally used in his trick. Those words are “Kill,” “Save,” and “Love.”
Wonder explains that according to Freud, these are the three things that enter your mind when you meet someone; it stems back to our ancestors and their methods of survival. Throughout the production, Wonder divulges these principles and how they relate to Henderson’s life and our own lives. Wonder also pulls a few risky and incredible magic tricks during the show, including guessing details about Edmund’s personal life, as well as picking which bag a broken bottle neck was under. Wonder also manages to guess what word Edmund picked; in the beginning, Wonder handed him his jacket to wear throughout the performance, and in the end he had him pull out a note from one of the pockets revealing it to say: “you will pick ‘love’”.
The finale, of course, included the Bullet Catch being performed. Thankfully, it was successful, and though I’m sure there are skeptics wondering whether or not it was a trick, the message in the play regarding the human condition and our overall relation to one another resonates deeply in the hearts and souls of those who witness this kind of Bullet Catch.
Bullet Catch was performed as part of Toronto’s 2014 Luminato Festival.