NOTE: The following review dates from May 2002 and this production's earlier run at the West End's New Ambassadors Theatre.
Trust me: you will never have seen anything quite like Marc Salem or the evening of extraordinary psychological and psychic powers he is now presenting at the New Ambassadors (after an earlier stint at Hampstead Theatre) under the title Mind Games.
But can you trust him? An avuncular, rotundly handsome bearded figure in a black suit and with an easy line in cheesy patter and humorous jokes with which he establishes an instant rapport with his audience, Salem fools you into familiarity before blasting your socks off with the kind of truly astounding revelations that only you can know.
The first part of the show draws on some of the academic work that Dr Salem (who is a professor) has developed in the field of non-verbal communication and has made him sought after by police investigators and in courts of law. The show is informative, too: 80% of information isn't in what we say, but in how we say it, he tells us, and proceeds to demonstrate it by inviting five members of the audience to come on stage and asking each of them to draw a picture, which are then shuffled, unseen by him.
Taking each picture in turn, the group are told to deny that it's theirs - even if it is - and from the tone of their responses and body language, he infallibly identifies the liar each time. He is also an extraordinary mathematician: one of his party tricks involves gathering from the audience random numbers between one and nine, then instantly tabling them into a graph that adds up to the same number in any direction.
But just when you're comfortable that these techniques are explicable, he starts doing the inexplicable: a fellow critic (so therefore I knew she wasn't in on the act!) was told to phone a friend on her mobile, and ask that friend to call out any number. He then produced a folder in which that same number - 331 - had already been written.
It gets progressively spookier. By the time Salem - painstakingly blindfolded with his eye sockets covered by 50p pieces, surgical tape and cloth - starts identifying, without touching any, objects submitted arbitrarily by the audience, it becomes uncanny.
This extraordinary performer claims there's nothing supernatural about the evening, but it's no more than mere science that's on offer. He is unmissable; you'll be talking about it for days, and thinking about it forever.
- Mark Shenton
** Save now on this show! For Whatsonstage.com's current Mind Games ticket offer, click here. Offer ends 7 May 2002. **