This strange, original piece has enjoyed huge success at the Edinburgh Fringe, on Broadway and is now touring the UK.
Very loosely it tells the (true?) story of magician William Henderson who perfected the bullet catch trick which involves a member of the audience shooting the performer in the mouth. The idea is, of course, that the magician astonishes everyone by catching the bullet in his teeth.
Rob Drummond, the writer, director and performer of this show has a glorious, gravelly, deadpan Glaswegian manner, a nice twinkle and a gift for comic timing – which is needed a lot because the play is structured to include a lot of ad-libbing and requires much thinking on the feet. Often he makes sure that you can't tell whether he is on off script which adds unsettling grittiness.
Drummond skilfully pyschs the audience up interactively before, eventually, choosing an eager volunteer who is on stage with him for the rest of the show. In the performance I saw it was a woman named Diane, half Drummond's height. With commendable composure she read aloud, assists with various tricks including mind reading and a levitating table and, eventually, fired the gun.
It's an atmospheric piece to which Ross Ramsay's often wistful sound designs add pleasing colour although the flimsiness of The Shed building meant that, in the performance I attended, the last ten minutes were marred by amplified buskers starting up on the space between the building and the river only a few yards away. The tricks and illusions are reasonably impressive and Drummond is strong, sardonic, entertaining company.
Moreover, the Shed, the National Theatre's temporary replacement for the Cottesloe while the latter is extensively redeveloped, is a good intimate venue which suits the show ideally. The bullet catch itself, however, falls flat - unless Drummond intends it to be a hammy anti-climax as a kind of deliberately ambiguous double bluff?