When is a chop cup not a chop cup? When it’s a dice-shaker… Cubism is Dave Forrest’s rather elegant solution to a problem he perceived. He loved the idea of the chop cup but struggled with the fact that it was so obviously a magic ‘prop’. I share Dave’s thinking to some extent (though it is worth saying that the ‘propiness’ of a ‘prop’ isn’t necessarily a barrier – you need only watch Paul Daniels perform his classic chop cup routine in front of a lay-audience to see that). So I was very keen to take a look at Cubism.
As you have probably already gathered, Dave’s solution is to use a dice-shaker and a die (in fact a selection of dice). There have been other solutions over the years (e.g. a chop mug, a ‘jigger‘, a regular cup, etc.) I actually have a nicely made wooden cup which is the sort of thing I hoped wouldn’t look too unusual on the shelf – but in truth the die shaker definitely looks more innocuous.
Dave has taken the unusual step of making the instructional video freely available on his website – and no other documentation is provided with the effect. I can see the logic to this in terms of keeping production costs down – and although the routine is great, it is really the well-made props you are paying for. One downside of this approach is that there is no menu to navigate around the video which is about 26 minutes long in total.
The first part of the video is a short introduction explaining the rationale for his development of the effect. The next slot is a discussion of the props…
The props are really nicely made (even the box they come in is stylish!) The dice shaker just looks like the sort of thing you might get with a nice set of backgammon and is made of leather-wrapped plastic. It is unassuming and so unsuspicious. There was a bit of a blemish on the felt lining of mine but this is not a major problem and doesn’t affect the routine in any way. You’re provided with a set of dice – 9 in total! – of various sizes and gimmicks. These will enable you to perform the original routine or many variations. Both my jumbo dice seemed a little more scuffed than you would expect from a brand new product. I will charitably assume that is part of the manufacturing process – but in any event it doesn’t affect their use in the routine. If you wanted to make this up on your own even tracking all of these down would take ages. It is very clear that a lot of thought has gone into this – and I love that there are some extra dice which extend your possibilities.
I really like the routine that Dave has put together as a starting point. It catches you right off guard at the beginning since it starts with some ‘mind-reading’ – which is a surprising variation on the chop cup theme, made possible by the utilisation of dice rather than balls.
Dave knows what he is doing as far as putting a routine together goes and to my mind this is well structured and builds to a strong climax. He uses a lot of puns which appeal to me but won’t suit everyone. There are a good variety of different effects through the routine – a shrinking die, a blank die, larger loads etc. Don’t underestimate the importance of this variety. In the hands of your average Jo performer a chop cup routine can easily either become repetitive (and so dull), or else the ‘challenge’ aspect (“Is the ball under the cup or in my pocket?”) or can antagonise your audience (see John Bannon’s excellent routine in Impossibilia for further thoughts on this).
If I had a criticism it would be that a fair bit of pocket space is required for this routine. Although it mainly resets itself there is a small re-set required. These two factors may mean that it is not ideal for walkaround. But I’m sure you could develop your own routine which addressed some of these things. Personally, I like the idea of having it set up in my home (we’re game players to it makes some sense to have a dice cup on the side), so that I could slip into the routine if someone asked for a bit of magic after a meal etc.
All in all, I like this a lot, and can see myself playing around with it until it becomes something really special. As a set piece I think it would make a superb little routine which would really engage and entertain your audience. You can buy Cubism at MagicDirect.