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Author: Rick Carruth



Derren Brown SECRET – A Review

By Rick Carruth

Derren Brown’s latest, and perhaps greatest, show just opened on Broadway. I have watched many of his tv specials, originating from the UK, and read several of his published works.. so.. when I was invited to attend a pre-opening show at the Cort Theater in New York, I couldn’t resist..

My wife and I were met at the theater by his publicist and given our press passes. Thankfully, we were seated about seven rows from the stage, so we had an excellent vantage point to watch a performer at his peak. I say that because in 2017 Derren finished a run at the Atlantic Theater Company, performing each show to a sold-out audience. This show was the same show performed in 2017, except on Broadway.. and to a much larger audience.

Written and directed by Andy Nyman and Andrew O’Connor, with writing by Derren as well, the show certainly featured a proven trio of both actors, directors, and writers. All are highly respected actors and award winners. SECRET is produced by J.J. Abrams, ( Regarding Henry, Forever Young, Armageddon, Cloverfield, Star Trek, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and the upcoming Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, and Thomas Kail and Jeffrey Seller of the wildly popular ‘Hamilton’.

Derren frequently calls himself a “psychological illusionist,” and accomplishes his feats with a combination of mind reading, persuasion, and psychological illusion. He prefers to tell the audience most of what he accomplishes is through the art of muscle reading, gesture interpretation, and subliminal suggestions, among other non-psychic feats. He does not claim to be psychic.

I particularly enjoyed watching and listening to the audience as the show progressed. I could hear the whispers and profound theories. Being a fair to middling proponent of magic and mentalism, I had a distinct advantage over most of my neighbors, and yet I was thoroughly entertained throughout the show.

Derren performed a classic array of effects. A couple were effects you might be familiar with; adapted to the stage.. and a couple more were large scale effects designed for a big audience and utilizing several audience members at once. One I recognized as a card effect he changed to use with various photos of audience members.. and another segment, about 20 minutes, entailed Derren interacting with various audience members, giving mini-psychic readings, disclosing facts about their lives he couldn’t reasonably know. Everything ended with the two best effects of the night… his famous ‘drawing’ effect and a grand finale that served one surprise after another, ending with THE SURPRISE.

The audience is ‘sort of..’ sworn to secrecy.. to preserve the integrity of the show for those to follow.. so I don’t think I can be too specific. I did recognize a couple of the earlier effects in the show as being effects I had seen performed on videos. That said.. it didn’t matter. I was involved in watching how he handled the audience, how he spoke to the audience and ‘explained’ some of the supposed psychological nuiances he employed, and how he avoided ‘patter’.

The latter was important to me. It takes a special skill to make an entire show appear as if you’re performing it ‘off the cuff’.. but with special skill and handling. That is a very difficult combination.. and demonstrates a level of professionalism achievable by only a handful of performers.

What I’m saying is… Derren Brown is one of those performers. He is a pro is every sense of the word. And his show is as good as any mentalism type show you will ever attend. If you’re like me.. you missed the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Dunninger, Scarne and Harry Blackstone… Do yourself a favor and DON’T miss Derren Brown..

Sweet Simplicity – John Carey – A Review

Sweet Simplicity – John Carey – A Review

Sweet Simplicity – John Carey – A Review

Rick Carruth

John Carey and BIGBLINDMEDIA present Sweet Simplicity, a collection of mostly self-working card tricks for those of us who enjoy such indulgences.. The Ad Copy reads:

John Carey has built an international reputation for his streamlined approach to card magic. Simplicity of method and great routining equals great magic that is EASY to do BUT still utterly fooling! On Sweet Simplicity you’ll find ten self working or super easy to do card tricks that will slay any audience. Simple to perform they may be – but the effect on your audience will be KNOCKOUT!


1 in 52 – Carey’s self working streamlined imaginary deck routine is a total worker.

The trick that can be explained – Carey’s spin on a Dai Vernon classic. Devious!

Technicolor Reset – Four blue backed Jokers transpose in slow motion with four red backed Jokers in an exceptionally clean manner and then immediately transpose back in a flash!

Five Oh?! – Semi automatic card magic on steroids, where you get five effects from practically nothing. Super strong and so much fun!

The Perception Shuffle – A self working false shuffle. Yes, you read that right!

Spectator Star – Make your spectator the star as they shuffle, cut and turn over the aces. Boom!

Somewhere over the rainbow – John’s rainbow deck is a thing of beauty. No sleights, just pure subtlety.

Don’t Make Me Cross – Carey’s ungaffed Brainwave effect where the card they think of is the only odd back card – so cheeky and yet SO strong!

Entrapment – A really cool, self working slow motion sandwich effect that you will love using.

One thought One Spell – A very subtle spelling effect you will want to add straight to your repertoire.

My Thoughts…

The vogue seems to be self-working card tricks. I can understand. There are many out there who do not have the time, or dexterity, to devote to endless hours of practice… yet, they want to be a part of the magic revolution.

The next-to-last time i saw the amazing Daryl was at a magic convention in the South. He spent all his dedicated time for the lecture to performing and teaching several self-working card tricks. You might expect more from such a talented magician, but Daryl understood his audience. When he finished and said..”What I performed is available in a set of lecture notes at my table just off the front of the stage.”.. I sat in my seat and watched as thirty to forty grown men unabashedly rushed, and I mean RUSHED, to the front of the stage to get their copy. They saw the performance.. they saw the power.. and they wanted it…

I often pick up self-working card magic DVD’s in hopes of finding one, and if I’m really lucky.. two effects I can file away in my repertoire. Although primarily for true beginners, I do run across that occasional unicorn.

SWEET SIMPLICITY is more than a unicorn ( an extremely rare creature ).. it is a little herd of unicorns. Honestly. I can’t disagree with anything in the ad copy. This collection WILL fool most magicians.. not to mention any lay audience.

The description of the ten effects in the ad copy will suffice. I could add a little something, but in all fairness to John I don’t want to give away too much. Here are a few of my thoughts that might add a little something to the review..

1 in 52 – Equivoque force of one of three cards.. This effect is not a magician slayer.. but gets a REALLY good reaction from a lay audience.. A keeper.

The Trick That Can Be Explained – Prediction effect with multiple outs. I would have to call this one a keeper too.

Technicolor Reset – Color Transposition. Strong packet effect. One of the only effects not self-working and could probably be sold as a stand-alone effect. You may not fool many magicians.. but they will certainly applaud your efforts. One of my two favorites..

Five Oh?! – Another Teleportation type effect. A selected card ends up sandwiched. Deck changes to all Jokers. This is a fine study of subtle moves, and is definitely a keeper.

The Perception Shuffle – Inspired by the Paradise Force Cut. Learn to perform this shuffle while looking the spectator in the eyes… and you have another keeper.

Spectator Star – A four Ace trick, as performed by a spectator. Semi-automatic working. Another effect that will slay a lay audience. May not fool most magicians, but they will certainly appreciate your effort.

Somewhere Over The Rainbow – Another four Aces trick with a kicker. Optical display would work perfectly with Daryl’s Kaleidoscope Cards or a Bicycle Rainbow deck. My other personal favorite.. Love the handling…

Don’t Make Me Cross – Ungaffed Brainwave type effect. The spectator finds the odd card in a mixed deck.

Entrapment – Self working sandwich effect. Nice series of moves to reach a performance climax. Another one the lay audience will never figure out.

One Thought One Spell – A spelling effect you’ll like, even if you’re not crazy about spelling effects..

Sweet Simplicity is available as a DVD or as an instant download, depending on where you purchase it. My copy is a DVD, and if there’s a downside, it’s that there was a lack of info for us reviewers. Short of pulling out a calculator and totaling ten performances and ten explanations, I can’t tell you the length of the DVD. Let’s just say it’s about an hour and ten minutes. Everything about the DVD was typical Bigblindmedia quality… The sound and video were very good, the music was very good.. and the helpers, aside from Liam, were very easy on the eye.. ( I only have one good one..)

Again.. I am very impressed by this collection of effects. This will be one of the best twenty five bucks you’ve spent in a long time. I really enjoy being able to make a firm recommendation of a new product, and Sweet Simplicity gets just that.. If you can’t find at least three or four keepers on this DVD, may I recommend badminton?

$25.00 From dealers who carry the Murphy’s Magic line of products

The Trick That Can Be Explained – Mark Elsdon – A Review

The Trick That Can Be Explained – Mark Elsdon – A Review

The Trick That CAN Be Explained – Mark Elsdon – A Review
Rick Carruth

Mentalism? Magic? Magic Theater?.. Mark Elsdon’s latest contribution to magic is all three. The Ad Copy reads:

“The performer introduces a small envelope and says that there is a playing card inside. He places the envelope on the table and never touches it again.

A participant takes the deck out of the box and shuffles it. Then they cut the deck and the top card is immediately turned over. It is, for example, the 7 of Spades. The deck is turned face-up and clearly spread to show that there are no duplicates.

The participant opens the envelope and removes the card inside. It is a perfect match – the 7 of Spades.

AND THERE ARE NO OTHER OUTS – the card in the envelope is ALWAYS the card they choose!

NO sleight-of-hand required. This literally is as easy as it gets!

Alternative endings: You can have a photo of the card posted on your Twitter feed, Instagram or other social media. Or you can WhatsApp or message them at the start and they check the message at the end.”

My Thoughts..

Based on Dai Vernon’s famous “Trick That Cannot Be Explained”, but not, Mark Elsdon has created a well-designed effect that will definitely surprise the average spectator.
Mark thanks Chan Canasta for the inspiration and thoughts that inspired this effect.
He is a well-regarded mentalist and magician who has a large number of published effects with all the biggies.. and is the author of the Hidden Gems series of books, favored by some of the top performers in all of magic.

“The Trick That Can Be Explained” plays out like this: The performer introduces a card and a small envelope to the spectators. The card is not disclosed.. but openly placed inside the envelope and put on the table, not to be touched until the reveal.

The performer brings out a deck of cards, performs a simple overhand shuffle or two, and ask a spectator to take the deck and repeat the performer’s actions. After doing this, the spectator is asked to place the deck on the table, face down, and give the deck a cut. After completing the cut, the top card is turned over to reveal.. lets say.. a Six of Hearts. The performer flips the decks and ribbon spreads it to show there is only one Six of Hearts in the deck.

After a quick review by the magi.. the card in the envelope is removed by the spectator.. and revealed to be another Six of Hearts. The envelope is examinable.

As always.. I encourage you to go to Murphy’s and watch the trailer to get a good visual idea of this effect.

The outcome is always the same. There is virtually no chance the two cards won’t match… and this can be performed within fifteen minutes of receiving it. There is a setup, but not much. Mark supplies you with everything you need to perform TTTCBE aside from the deck.. which needs to be a standard Bicycle red-backed deck.

The effect is actually so simple it’s hard to write about it in detail. That’s not a bad thing. There are several cards supplied by Mark to make everything work, and a booklet about four pages long that explains everything you need to know.

Thankfully, there’s NO DIY for the magician to perform.. although there IS a small act you may need to perform to make the working slightly smoother. It takes about a minute and requires nothing but fingers.

This is one of those effects that WILL start an argument amongst performers. Some think they know the method – but don’t. Others know the method but don’t want to use it because it ‘may’, in their opinion, not be 100%. And others declare TTTCBE one of their favorite effects of all time.

On the surface.. this is a very nice effect for magicians to perform for a lay audience. It will fool them.. and it will work, regardless of what you read on the forums. My purpose in including this little statement is my dissatisfaction with posters who have NOT bought this effect and DO NOT know precisely how it works, yet insist on expressing their self-important opinions. Mark has included ALL the tools you need to make it work. Those folks who are concerned because they fear it ‘might’ not work 100% of the time are performers who obviously do not own, nor have ever performed, TTTCBE. Those of us who DO actually own and perform this effect don’t have that fear. Hooray for Mark and Boo to the naysayers.

“The Trick That Can Be Explained” is an ideal effect for walk-around and restaurant work. Moving from group to group or table to table gives you all the time you need to get everything in order for your next performance. The reveal can be made to differ from one table to another.. but you will need to make up a couple of gaffs after seeing what Mark does. This is minimal.

There will be those of you who will make this a staple in your act. The ending is a stunner and something you’ll want to do over and over. I hope, if you buy Mark’s effect, you’ll be one of those guys.

There is a video on Youtube, over 30 minutes in length, with Mark and Luke Dancy discussing The Trick That Can Be Explained.. Get additional insights at:

$29.95     From dealers who carry the Murphy’s Magic line of products..

Mortalis Playing Cards – Area52 – A Review

Mortalis Playing Cards – Area52 – A Review

Mortalis Playing Cards – by Area 52 – A Review
Rick Carruth

Mortalis Playing Cards are both collectible and marked. They are limited to a one-time run of 2000 decks, and will never be re-issued. Here’s the Ad copy:

Mortalis Playing Cards is a deck of premium playing cards printed and manufactured in the USA by the United States Playing Card company. Fully marked, it hides its secrets in plain sight.

Only 2000 decks were printed, and will never be reprinted or restocked.

The optical marking system was designed in such a way that the closer you look, the less you see. It hides in direct sight to the untrained eye. Spectators, and even magicians, cannot identify it up close.

To the trained eye, it takes less than 2 seconds to identify and read a card just from the backs. It’s designed in such a way that the whole system revolves around the working of a clock. If you can read a clock, you can read Mortalis’s secrets. Perfect for close-up!

Printed by the USPCC on their premium stock, then double crushed to perfection along with an embossed air cushion finish. A traditional cut ensures perfect faro shuffles and table work. Saying that the cards handle like a dream is an accurate description.

The custom Court cards were built from the ground up, featuring borderless courts with popping, matching colors. The facial expressions on some cards have been tweaked to give a unique, personal feel. Every deck comes with a double backer, a duplicate card, and a full tutorial on how to read and use the marking system.

Designed by acclaimed artist, designer of the Mint Playing Cards, Christofer Lacoste in Canada, and realized and produced by Area52Magic and Pravar Jain.

My Thoughts…

As mentioned above, they are printed on USPCC’s premium Bee crushed stock, with a traditional cut and embossed air cushion finish. Intended as a tool for magicians and gamers, as well as a collectible deck for the collector.. only 2000 of these decks were made..

They feel and handle very good, although I did have some trouble performing faro shuffles until I broke the deck in. This is attributable to the edges moreso than the quality of cards. It is also a very common trait of Bicycle brand cards.

As a collectable deck, I give it high marks. I like the overall look, sort of a stylized high-dollar look, and the soft feel I would expect from quality cards. After ten minutes of faros, they were ready to be put to use.

As a marked deck, I give it an exclamation mark.. and a question mark. The marking system involves a series of two ‘marks’ that tell you the value and the suit. They are structured similar to a clock face to make memorization easier. I can’t say ‘easy’, as you will have to invest a little time into learning the method. The ad copy says the average user should learn to identify a card in less than two seconds, and the creator, Pravar Jain, says… you can properly identify any card in ‘under 3-4 seconds’. Although not a deal breaker, we all compute at different levels. If you have reasonably good vision and cipher at a normal rate.. you should be good to go. Just keep in mind you’ll need to perform some drills to get ‘in the groove’..

Like virtually any marking system, (or memorized deck).. certain magicians will love this deck.. There’s not way for me to tell you whether it’s for you. Those who take the time to play with it, explore it’s possibilities, and give it a proper spin.. will appreciate all the work Area52 has put into Mortalis Playing Cards.

$15.00    From dealers who carry the Murphy’s Magic line of products..