As part of their WorldStage series, Chicago Shakespeare is offering a visit with illusionist and mentalist Scott Silven from his childhood home in rural Scotland—or as he says, “in the heart of the middle of nowhere.” The Journey is a series of mentalist (mind-reading) activities wrapped in an old story. During the 50-minute show, all viewers become participants, sharing important dates and memory objects, all of which get wrapped into the story and the mental tricks. The audience for each show comprises about 30 people; sometimes all their video images appear on screen.
The story, Silven says, is about time and home and he stresses the idea of connection for all of us. Long ago, or maybe recently, a little boy named Cally dreamed of leaving home. He gets lost wandering through a forest and carves something on a tree, an image to be retrieved later in Silven’s show. He weaves Cally’s story, which mimics his own, throughout the series of mentalist exercises with his audience but it seems like a way to add a theatrical framing device to what is essentially a magic or illusionist show.
However, Silven is a charming host and The Journey’s technology is very sophisticated, as anyone who has sat through a Zoom meeting with 30 people will agree
Silven is usually a touring performer, but when the pandemic confined him to his home outside Glasgow (he actually has been US-based), he decided to devise The Journey, a new virtual experience. The production team converted Silven’s home into a performance space equipped with an audio-visual platform that allows participants to share the experience on-screen with Silven and each other. Elaborate projections across the back of the performance area show sky, sea and landscape scenes.
Audience members are asked to prepare for the event by spending time exploring Silven’s environment in advance and bringing specific items to the show: plain paper, a pen or marker, and an object of personal significance.
Everyone in the audience is invited to join Silven for one feat or another. You might be asked to name and describe an important date, show and describe your personal item, or choose a photo from an assortment.
The evening is described as immersive but it’s really a bit hokey, perhaps because Silven treats it so seriously. I’ve seen (and yes, participated in) a number of magic and mentalist evenings. Most recently, I was astonished (and remain so) when the serial number on a 20-dollar bill in my grandson’s wallet turned out to be the same number written on a piece of paper, folded and refolded and sealed in a series of envelopes inside a large, taped-tight envelope. Thanks to Trickery Chicago for that experience. On another occasion, mentalist Neil Tobin used a story of his life as Adolf Hitler’s psychic adviser as the framing device for his illusions and mind-reading stunts.
The Journey is directed by Allie Winton Butler, designed by Jeff Sugg, and written by Rob Drummond—with sound design by Gareth Fry and music composed by Jherek Bischof. The Journey is produced by Double M Arts & Events LLC and Journey Productions Limited and commissioned and supported by a number of organizations, including the University of Illinois’ Krannert Center.
The Journey is livestreamed twice a day (every day but Monday) through January 24. Tickets are $45-$65 per screen and you can buy tickets and learn more here. Recommended for age 14 and up.