David Blaine and Derren Brown (in the UK at least) made magic, illusion, mind control and deception cool. They took something that was usually found on the big stage, as a grand spectacle and put it in the streets, making it much closer and more unbelievable because of how much you could actually “see.” It made throwing a playing card through glass or revealing a tattoo of someone’s name on your stomach, having just met that person, so much more amazing. In the case of Derren Brown, what he seemed to be doing was mind reading and mind control, not always on the unsuspecting public but on celebrities too.
As time has gone on, both these entertainers has shifted their focus. Street magic and small time tricks and illusion have become out-dated. David Blaine prefers huge stunts, like living inside a box suspended above the Thames or being buried alive. Derren Brown is now focusing on his huge experiments and bigger mind controlling stunts, which are actually better than what he used to do. It means there is a gap in the market for someone to go back and do the smaller tricks and illusions on the street.
Which makes this post slightly misleading because the even more incredible thing about Jonathan Goodwin’s show (The Incredible Mr Goodwin) is that none of it is fake. It isn’t a show about tricks and illusions or mind control and deception. It’s a show about the power and strength of us, ordinary human beings and demonstrates what we can do if we put our minds to it and also put the training in.
Jonathan Goodwin takes his inspiration from people like Houdini, escape artists and stunt performers, rather than magicians. These people weren’t making it up. They were actually in a straight-jacket, in a tank of water, trying to escape or facing certain death. Jonathan Goodwin is doing the same but to his strength (or detriment depending on how you look at it) there are so many more dangerous things you can play with today.
This means he can perform huge stunts, like attaching himself to a car by a length of chain, shooting the car off a cliff and having to unpick the lock that connects him to the car before it pulls him to his death. These stunts all showcase how dangerous the things he is doing are and range from being submerged in water, unpicking a lock or handcuffs within his four-minute capacity of air or being dangled from the London Eye by a rope that is on fire while trying to release himself from a straight-jacket.
Its to his testament and the entertainment of the show that these stunts can and do go wrong. At least three stunts, in the practice or preparation or the actual “for real” stunt itself, have gone wrong in some way, sometimes halting the stunt completely or just creating more drama or another obstacle for Goodwin to overcome. It’s a great idea to show these failures, demonstrating that it can go wrong, it is dangerous but there is always a safety net (most of the time.) It doesn’t take anything away from the stunts, in fact it makes them much more interesting and entertaining.
It is the huge stunts that attract you to the show and he opens with one of these huge stunts each episode but I think the smaller stunts are actually where the real entertainment lies. Seeing him go around a car, 360 degrees, while it is moving, is impressive but watching him beat a bear trap as a demonstration of reflexes is unbelievable. It is also with the smaller stunts that he gets the audience involved and manages to increase the danger even further, from being slapped by a member of the public as he tries to escape handcuffs, with them unaware that he has a scorpion in his mouth, to shooting an apple above a ladies head with a bow and arrow, each of the smaller, less glamorous stunts are actually the more intense and dangerous.
The last positive is the final fifteen minutes of each episode which is a glimpse at his preparation for each stunt and the behind the scenes of how he does it. This is a brilliant move as it demonstrates how amazing and how incredible Jonathan Goodwin actually is. His job is to prepare himself for each stunt, be it increasing how long he can hold his breath to how accurate he can judge distances and throw accurately. Each skill took hours to weeks to months of training and just adds to how incredible each stunt actually is.
Overall, definitely try to catch The Incredible Mr Goodwin if it is ever repeated or shown in your country. It is exciting, edge of your seat, incredible television and a testament to how much and how amazing a human being can be. It’s not just a show about illusion and incredible stunts but a show that showcases a man’s talents and in some cases, his dangerous failings too.