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Topic: A Review of Mark Elsdon's Conversation as Mentalism
Message: Posted by: lemonjug (Mar 7, 2014 12:45PM)
This is an ebook on propless mentalism by Mark Elsdon. It is available from Penguin Magic.

My preferences are for simple and direct effects with an organic feel.

I havenít had a chance to try many of these yet, so these are just my first impressions.


Conditions: can be done one-on-one. Nothing is written down.

The participant is asked to picture a scene from Seven (with Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman) and to imagine himself in a scene from the film carrying out one of the crimes. He is then asked to picture in his mind the sin associated with the scene written in blood or in dust as in the film. The performer describes the scene and names the sin.

This is nice, but an obvious con is that the participant will need to be familiar with the film.

One for the Road

Conditions: Can be done close-up. Requires at least 3 participants. Requires a pen Ė doesnít require paper.

The performer and participants eliminate one kind of alcoholic drink from a written down Ďlistí of alcoholic drinks until only one drink is left Ė the drink predicted by the performer.

This routine is reminiscent of Drinks on the Patio featured on Spellman and Nardiís Unexpected DVD. However, it differs in some important ways: Mark turns a quality inherent in the nature of this kind of routine on its head, making the procedure more logical, he says, to the participant; there is a nice little joke built into the climax Ė a participant, whose suspicion has been purposely aroused by the performer,(hopefully) calls the performer out on part of the method with humorous results; the Ďlistí of alcoholic drinks are written on a surface quite different from the normal business cards or notepad. It will be a matter of opinion as to whether this aspect is an improvement on the Spellman/Nardi routine as some participants may not like it.

All Change

Conditions: One-on-one. Nothing written down.

The performer takes a handful of change from a pocket and tells the participant to do likewise. The performer says that he can judge the amount of money held by someone just by the sound made by the coins inside a shook fist. The participant and performer each shake his fist of coins and the performer now makes his prediction. He says that the sum of all the small change in his hand will be equal to the amount in the participantís hand, plus an extra amount of X pence, plus an extra amount which when added to the participantís amount will come to an amount of pounds and pence predicted by the performer (Phew! Not exactly simple and direct!). Mark suggests repeating this a few times to ensure that the participant fully understands what is about to happen.

Iím sure that in the right hands this could be astonishing, however, it just seems too convoluted to me. Another possible con for some might be the necessity to carry around at least 30 coins in small change in one pocket.

Sixty two pence

Conditions: One-on-one. Requires coins and some set-up.

The plot here is familiar: the participant arranges three items (coins here) on a table while the performerís back is turned. The performer requests that the participant exchanges the coin on the far left with the one on its immediate right, for example, and, after a few such moves, he knows the order the coins are in.

Nothing new so far. However, Mark adds something very nice to the revelation. I canít say what it is, but I will say that it adds a very human quality and a nice splash of colour to what can otherwise be a very abstract and mechanical effect. I like this one a lot.


Conditions: One-on-one. Requires a pen Ė no paper required.

This routine is in a similar vein to the well-known ĎWhich Handí (Truth/Liar) logic puzzle which I first came across on one of Banachekís Psi Series DVDs. It differs in a couple of ways: Lies uses an imaginary coin, ring, etc.; Banachekís routine requires two participants, while with Lies Mark offers a way of doing this with only one person.

Iím not sure that being able to do this effect with only one person is much of an improvement on what has gone before. After all, doing it with only one person means the lone participant will have to follow and remember the somewhat complicated procedure normally undertaken by two people. Mark appreciates that there will be a lot for the participant to take on board and advises the performer to be Ďvery, very clearí in his instructions.

In my opinion this is just too convoluted. The participant will need to be clever and alert. I certainly wouldnít advise doing this down the pub for someone whoís had a couple of drinks. Also, I think the participant is quite likely to see this for what it is Ė a logic puzzle

Game On

Conditions: One-on-one. Nothing is written down.

This routine has a hypnosis premise. The performer and participant throw an imaginary dice. Each is allowed to choose the number his dice falls on. The performer and participantís numbers are added together after each throw. Whoever is able to get to 50 first is the winner. Despite being able to choose his own numbers each time the participant is never able to reach 50 first.

Iíve read some very positive things about this routine which makes me think that I must be missing something because I donít like it all. First of all the game really doesnít make much sense. Secondly, the whole process is time consuming; you have to throw the imaginary dice quite a few times in each game and you must total them as you go along. Then when youíve won the first game, you will have to repeat the whole process again several times just to show that your previous success was more than just a lucky fluke. Hardly simple and direct either!

This routine was the reason I bought Conversation as Mentalism, and, needless to say, I was very disappointed. Iíd love to hear some contradictory opinions from people who are using it with success because, as I said, I canít help but think Iím missing something here.


Conditions: can be done one-on-one

This routine also takes post-hypnotic suggestion as its premise and uses body magic as its methodology. The participant is robbed of the ability to do a physical act he or she was formerly able to perform.

Iím afraid I donít like this very much either. The effect seems insignificant when compared with something like Raj Madhokís Fossa Nature in Neal Scryer and Friends. In FN (which I use a lot) the impression can be given that the hypnotist has seriously interfered with the participantís sense of touch. In Thumbthing the participant is asked to contort a limb into a very unusual position and is then asked to perform a certain act. She is able to do it. The performer now reveals that he will take away her power to do this particular thing in the future. Sure enough, her next attempt fails.

While this piece of body magic works, as I have already said, the effect just seems insignificant; the power supposedly taken away from the spectator is so miniscule and irrelevant itís hard to believe that the announcement that she will lose the ability to do it in the future would make any impression on the participant at all. In fact, Iím pretty confident most participants would see through the hypnotistís claim that the effect is a result of hypnotism. Having to contort a limb for the process to work kind of screams that the whole thing relies on nothing more than a physiological quirk, which the participant would no doubt confirm straight away when she requests a friend to perform the act and discovers that her friend is unable to do it either, despite not having been hypnotised.

Landline: Conditions: Requires a phone landline and some very good people skills.

The participant freely chooses a number from a telephone book (no f*r*e), that number is called on a landline by the participant, and the person called is able to tell the participant what he or she is thinking (the name of a person, city, etc.).

This is diabolically clever. The methodology relies on a little known peculiarity of landline phones (which allows this to be done without a f*r*e) and a huge chunk of psychology to ensure that assistance is received from a necessary quarter.

This Yearís Book

Conditions: one-on-one. Nothing written down.

I wonít describe the effect as a description would most likely give away the methodology to many here. I will say that I really like this one.


Most books on propless mentalism include at least a few routines which use b*a*c*i*n* a*a*g*r*a*s as their methodology, and Conversation as Mentalism does not surprise in this respect. I did expect to see a few effects which revolve around a psychological f*r*c* and was surprised that there isnít a single PF in the book.

Penguin doesnít offer much of a description of what to expect from the routines in this ebook on their site (other than to say the ebook deals with propless mentalism). Iím not sure such an approach is in the consumerís best interests, and I hope this review goes some way towards remedying this.

Message: Posted by: Jeff Wassom (Mar 7, 2014 05:00PM)
Thanks for the review Ray, was curious about this one.
Message: Posted by: robvh (Mar 7, 2014 07:57PM)
Good review. I quite enjoyed "One for the Road" and have seen in performed live to good effect. I didn't buy the book since I didn't think there were enough strong items in it. Perhaps if they compile all three books once they're out and offer a killer ebook discount, it will make sense. I think the drink effect is the only item from this first volume that I would make use of though.

I think you'd be better off putting the money toward Mark Elsdon's Penguin Lecture. He performs and explains the drink routine in that lecture as well as a number of other strong items. I think the lecture is 3-4 hours long. PLUS, you get to see me on screen briefly as I ask a question about his equivoke routine involving chocolate bars! How's that for a bonus? It was quite a fun routine too.
Message: Posted by: Martin.Lester (Mar 8, 2014 06:56AM)
Thanks for Review

Always liked a lot of his work so was thinking about getting this e book
Message: Posted by: Stunninger (Mar 8, 2014 08:10PM)
Thanks for your honest review, lemonjug.

Was on the fence about this one. Only two reviews on Penguin made me hesitate.

After reading yours I will pass on this book.