Perceptual manipulation is an inherent component of magic, but is rarely discussed in any depth in magic shows. Sean Harrington’s Self Deception is a well assembled show that highlights several of the facets of psychology that are especially relevant to magic. This does not come across as a psychology lecture, for better or for worse, as the emphasis is decidedly on the magic tricks. Nevertheless, the psychological themes prove effective at creating a structure for Harrington’s magic.
In one of his opening sequences, Harrington uses coin tricks to illustrate inattentional blindness, perhaps more famously illustrated in the experiment involving basketball players and a gorilla that Harrington cites as inspiration. These are well performed, and easily engage the attention of even the children in the audience.
Harrington frames another trick as a tribute to the discredited science of phrenology. While the way in which he “uses” phrenology is not really how phrenology works, this is perhaps forgivable as phrenology does not actually work, a fact with Harrington makes sure to state to his audience. It does, however, work as a fun framework in which Harrington performs his tricks.
There is room for improvement in Harrington’s performance. His magic tricks are skillfully done, but he might work on his use of the time between tricks, which does occasionally fall a bit flat. This is especially noticeable in his final trick, which requires some length of preparatory work prior to the big reveal. Harrington gets the audience involved in this stage, but it does still feel like the dull necessary procedure to reach the exciting conclusion, rather than an integrated and entertaining component of the show. Performing well through these transition times is key to creating a cohesive show out of a collection of tricks.
In Self Deception Harrington has put together a fun set of magic tricks, which do for the most part fit in well with his psychology theme. Harrington interacts well with an audience of mixed ages. While there are elements of Harrington’s performance that could definitely do with more polish, his creative use of his theme has enabled him to design an interesting magic show.