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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

MIND GAMES (article first published : 2007-08-9)

If, like me, you missed the opportunity of seeing the world-renowned mentalist Marc Salem during his previous, highly publicised national tour of South Africa in 2004, you have a second opportunity of seeing him. Take advantage and be prepared to be highly entertained and equally mystified.

He assures the audience at the start that there is nothing supernatural about his performance or of the occult involved and that he will not embarrass anyone - and he is a man of his word. He also maintains that he has no plants in the audience and does not call on anyone he knows. His assurance is unnecessary as this becomes patently obvious. This is entertainment at its best. He has a very smooth patter with a delightful sense of humour and a very quick wit. He is obviously enjoying himself and this enjoyment is most infectious.

Marc Salem takes his audience on a captivating excursion by seeming to read the minds of those present, to the extent that it appears that he is influencing their thoughts. By using psychological techniques, visual information and a sharp eye for human nature he astounds and mystifies with his mind games. His feats just cannot be faked. He breaks that eternal lock on the mind and, by opening that door; he raises fascinating questions that continue to excite philosophers and scientists today.

He is, by his own admission, a trained psychologist who used to lecture and has helped train police investigators, not by trapping the wrongdoers but by training the detectives on how to operate and what to look for. It is publicised that he has had 20 years of training and comes direct from Broadway and the West End. He has also been a great hit in Australia.

Examples of his incredible feats abound, each one topping the previous one. A random member of the audience is chosen and it can only be by chance. On the night I saw Marc Salem, it was a woman. She was asked to phone someone - it turned out to be her brother-in-law - who was asked to mention a three-digit number. This was announced and Marc Salem produced the same number already written on his notepad from his pocket. Later, five random members of the audience were selected and each was asked to draw something on a board, and after they were shuffled he asked each of them if he or she had drawn the picture, having told them to deny having drawn them, whether they had or not. He then proceeded to identify who had drawn each one. His explanation of how one can identify the various "tells' of someone who is lying is as fascinating as his infallible identification and gives some insight to his inexplicable observational talents.

He reads the minds of randomly selected members of the audience, for example in the case of words, letter by letter, chosen from random books and random pages, completely accurately and of course numbers as well, in many different ways. Several people volunteer various numbers which are then added up by someone from the audience. The total is the same as that on a pre-recorded tape, given to another member of the audience beforehand, and held in his custody. His mind games defy explanation.

He even identifies various objects collected from the audience by asking a few seemingly-inconsequential questions and making astounding observations while having his eyes completely covered by five-Rand coins taped in place and then covered with a solid blindfold. These items will obviously vary from night to night and his perspicacity and accuracy must be seen to be believed. As a parting shot, he assures the audience that he is doing nothing that an eleven-year-old cannot do - with 30 years' experience.

This is fun family entertainment at its best and it can be enjoyed at the iZulu Theatre, Sibaya Casino & Entertainment Kingdom, until August 26. Performances Tuesdays to Sundays at 20h00, with Saturday and Sunday matinees at 15h00. Tickets from R50 to R60, booked through Computicket and the Sibaya Box Office on 031580 5555. Maurice Kort




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