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Q&A: Rob Drummond


Bullet catch: One of the daring acts at the Ulster Bank Belfast Festival

Bullet catch: One of the daring acts at the Ulster Bank Belfast Festival

Bullet catch: One of the daring acts at the Ulster Bank Belfast Festival

Q: Well, the first question has to be 'Are you completely bonkers?!'

A: I've been a big magic fan all of my life so when I had the chance to do a theatre show it seemed like the only one to do with magic that I wanted to do. Why do something tame, if it's the only show I'm going to do?

Q: ... even if it might be the last show you ever do?

A: Let's hope not! I've done it a few times by now so it's as safe as it can possibly be.

Q: Do you perform as yourself or as another character?

A: It's really the story of a magician who died performing the bullet catch 100 years ago in London. It's an investigation in to that case and what happened when an audience member was brought up on stage (to fire the gun) and ended up being quite traumatised by their part in his death.

Houdini refused to do it because he'd seen some of his contemporaries killed. He actually wrote to the magician in my show and advised him not to do it, but he ignored the letter.

Q: It only takes a second to pull the trigger, so what makes this a full-length show?

A: The actual bullet catch aspect of the show is only in the last 10 minutes. There's a big build-up which is really about me getting to know the audience member.

Q: Do you get a lot of volunteers?

A: I've never done a show where I've had no hands in the air -- quite the opposite. It's actually a challenge sometimes to eliminate enough people.

People are very keen to take part usually, so if anyone wants a tip on how to be picked it's not to be too eager. I wouldn't let anyone on stage who's too desperate!

Q: And is it is a real gun with real bullets?

A: Yes; obviously there's some trickery involved in it, but there is paramount danger involved in the show, so you have to check the audience member and get the right person up there who can handle the pressure of doing it.

If there's any doubt in my mind I don't ask them to do it. Likewise they don't have to do it if they don't want to.

Q: Has anyone ever backed out?

Yes, we have had two or three people back out. With one of them the show seemed dramatic enough so I finished it, as they were going backwards and forwards anyway.

There are ways round it, though; you can get a substitute from the audience based on encounters you've had earlier in the show.

Q: Does the mood change when the gun comes out?

A: The show's quite light-hearted at times but towards the end the tone does shift and when the gun comes out you can feel the temperature in the room change. We have had people leave at that point and not want to watch the ending. After the show I find the volunteer in the lobby and spent at least ten minutes with them making sure they're 'decompressed'.

Q: Do you fear death?

A: No-one's ever asked me that before! I think I do fear it, but when you're up there you've too much else to think about. You're worrying about the audience member and getting it right. If you start to think about death your mind would wander.

Q: What do your family and friends think?

A: They were very nervous about it, but as the tour's gone on and I have done it over and over again they've got used to it.

Q: Wouldn't it just be easier to work in a shop or an office?

A: I tried doing that but I'm a playwright and like to experience different things. I trained to be a professional wrestler before and would like to learn ventriloquism.

I tried a normal job when I was 18 and it drove me insane, the monotony of the 9 to 5. You're only here for a short period of time, so you might as well try and get some experiences.


Bullet Catch is on at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast on Friday and Saturday as part of the Ulster bank Belfast festival at Queen's. For details visit www.belfastfestival.com