I do not often get annoyed .. well I do, but this is a thing that really quite gets to me more than normal. What is it? The continuous overuse of absolutely blatant actors on Television in mentalism and mind reading tricks
You know the sort of effects, the ones that are clearly impossible and have a cringing overreacting crowd and a dismally overthusiastic volunteer. If you do not know what I'm talking about, stick on a Criss Angel television show and see for yourself.
These people are paid actors to make the trick look real, they have to be in on the trick otherwise the trick will not work. These sorts of effects are all for the camera and can not work to an audience who are right up close to the mentalist. Only the television audience gets fooled by the limited angles the camera lets you see.
That being said, I believe there is an exception to the use of stooges in this instance. To me, an actor is someone who plays a big part in the overall outlet of the effect of the trick and is usually pretending to be a volunteer. There are usually a crowd of actors too, all pretending to be amazed by some silly levitation of some sort when in reality if you were there, you'd see the working behind it. This is usually some big budget movie apparatus, if I wanted to see that, I'd go to the cinema would not I. A stooge is someone who is involved in the trick but usually behind the scenes and does not broadcast their poor acting skills to the spectators but makes the effect look utterly impossible by their clever intervening. Note the word CLEVER.
I realize some mind reading tricks do need a stooge, but it's the overuse of actors that destroy the real creative side of mind reading and mentalism. There is a danger of shooting an entire show with actors as spectators and volunteers and not having any real reactions. The reactions are the real magic anyway so why take that away from an effect?
I love close up mentalism with real people. Nothing is better than an effect where the spectators are genuinely mystified by the mentalist. I do not personally love stooges either but I have and will always use them when I feel the need. I'll use them to create a mind blowing effect where the audience is completely baffled and goes away buzzing from the trick. I will not however use actors. Ever. I do not care if I've got a world famous television show. I'll never water down my effects with that nonsense. Derren Brown manages without actors, so that's good enough for me.
Adam M Davies