New Yorker Marc Salem labels himself a “mentalist”, “developmental psychologist” and “student of the human mind for over thirty years”. After introducing himself and proudly highlighting the fact this is his 7th season at the Shaw, he is careful to assure the audience that respect for participants will be paramount and that nothing we will see will bear any relation to the supernatural or occult. Interesting choice of what is presumably a stage name, then, however that is possibly another interesting discussion for another day…!

Salem demonstrates a number of different “mind games” as the evening progresses, using randomly chosen volunteers from the audience, his presentation slick, humorous, and relaxed. Particularly interesting is his apparent ability to guide and manipulate the way a person thinks, for example a lady who is given a choice of three envelopes, inevitably picking the one with no cash value. Non-verbal communication and body language are explored as Salem pinpoints just exactly who is telling lies on stage, the predictable progression of language demonstrated with a game of Chinese Whispers, and the human being’s innate feel for familiarity shown when the correct, missing piece of a jigsaw is picked from an overflowing bag of different shapes.

Mostly, we get the feeling that this is simply an incredibly astute, intuitive man who relies heavily on clever guess-work and years of practice in his chosen field. He is not always 100% accurate or convincing, and although glaring blunders are rare, he works to gloss over them very quickly.

However, it is towards the end of the show that Salem truly comes into his own. The real highlight is his ability, when completely blindfolded, to seemingly tap into the thoughts of random audience members, extracting accurate pieces of information about them and identifying their belongings (hand-picked by volunteers!) by listening to their disembodied voices alone and without touching. Spooky indeed, and this is one point where we are truly left wondering how he does it.

All in all, an enjoyable evening. Interesting, entertaining and undeniably ingenious, but only rarely completely jaw-dropping.