Credit: David Wilkinson, Empirical Photography

Grade: C+

Even with over 7.7 billion people in the world, each person will probably tell the story of their lives a little bit differently. Everyone interprets their time on this earth in their own, individual way. Some might call this “life experience” or “growing up and growing old.” But illusionist Scott Silven argues that each person’s life is a journey, and that we all can connect through sharing our experiences on our journeys.

Silven explores this idea in his interactive illusion performance, The Journey, part of the 2021 Spoleto Festival USA. The show takes a small group of individuals from all over, and begins with Silven standing in a plain room with a box behind him.

The setup feels very mysterious at first. There’s a Scotsman standing in all black, talking about the incredible journey guests are about to embark on.

“This is a journey you will all remember,” [EJG2] he said. “Now take a breath, count from 3, 2, 1 …. we have arrived.”

And The Journey began.

Throughout the show, the faces of the attendees appear projected into Silven’s room, and he calls on guests for assistance, just like when a magician asks for a volunteer from an actual in-person audience. The first guest he called on during last night’s live performance was a woman named Sarah. He asked her to picture a time on a clock. Her time was 1:11, so Silven sealed the box with white tape and wrote the numbers 111 on the tape. He hung the box up above the window behind him and assured the audience that the box would not be tampered with throughout the show.

Silven, who returned to his childhood home in Scotland when the COVID-19 pandemic began and remains there today, shared in his ASMR-friendly voice a story, one that he had ostensibly related to as a child. The story followed a Scottish boy named Callie who went roaming about the coast of Scotland. The show promised “stunning visuals,” however, it did not offer much more than Silven in a room, a projector and a few clips of him wandering through the Scottish countryside. 

For the first 15 minutes of the show, the illusionist didn’t really perform any illusions. The first one occurred when he asked three guests to show an object of great personal importance. The guests showed a letter, a ring and a ring box — to which Silven revealed the words “letter,” “ring” and “box” written on the back of a picture frame hanging behind him. He had not touched since he frame at all throughout the show.

All of his tricks in the show followed this formula: The objects in his performance all ended up relating to the things from audience members’ journeys. One man shared that the house number of his childhood home was 68; Silven later revealed a photo of a house with … the number 68! 

Magic can be a very cheesy thing to perform in the first place. Some guests (like myself) are often skeptical of how these illusions can be carried out. It was very entertaining to see guests from all over sharing pieces of their life story. However, every trick took the same path. Step 1: Guest reveals something from their life. Step 2: Silven purrs empathically about the beauty of their choice and their interconnectedness and their journey. Step 3: Silven miraculously reveals a rock/photograph/map connected to the guest’s contributions. Repeat Steps 1 through 3.

The show was entertaining, and for the easily amused, it could be a very fun and unexplainable experience. For me, I do not see this show being even close to worth the $50 ticket price. I could watch clips of Criss Angel for free online, and many of his tricks are truly unexplainable even to me. 

So, The Journey has ended, and what stuck with me were Silven’s flowing black hair and that one man lived at a house numbered 68.

Sarah Connor is a graduate student in the Goldring Arts Journalism and Communications program at Syracuse University.

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