Shane Warne and the mentalist who mixes mind games and magic
How is it? Did he really smell the name from a scholarly reading of my micro-reactions? Is there telepathy involved? Could there be a more prosaic explanation?
To me, it’s mind-boggling and oddly moving, but it’s that kind of seeming miracle that Silven has built his career around. It puts a warm, optimistic spin on mentalism, a kind of performing art adjacent to magic whose practitioners perform apparent feats of telepathy, hypnosis, and prediction.
He does not claim to be psychic or able to predict the future. Instead, he says his work draws on his training in psychology, acting and traditional magic.
On stage, he is calm and composed, usually dressed in minimalist black. He approaches his work with a sense of wonder rather than any theatricality. In person, he is talkative and amiable. At the heart of what he does is connection, seeking to take an audience with him rather than stun them into submission.
“For me, it’s the closest connection between the performer and the audience,” he says of mentalism.
“Traditional magicians may have props or people in boxes; a mentalist connects with memories, emotions.
“It’s almost like watching a movie. You know that everything you see may not be real, but that doesn’t matter; it’s about what you’re going through, what you’re feeling.
Cinema has had a decisive influence on Silven’s profession: his favorite directors have shaped his act more than traditional stage magicians. He learned the power of non-linear storytelling from watching David Lynch films and took notes from Alfred Hitchcock on how to create and release tension in the viewer.
Yet his approach is much easier than either cinematic icon. He has previously done “sweet dinner” performances where he dines with two dozen guests who participate in mind-reading illusions that take them back to childhood memories and see them connect with fellow audience members.
His new show, wonderswill play to much larger crowds at the Sydney Opera House, but it hopes to invoke the same intimate, communal atmosphere as tableside performances.
His act relies heavily on audience participation, but making those involved feel comfortable is vital to Silven.
“When people see this kind of spectacle, they sometimes fear that the mentalists will see their deepest and darkest secrets and use harmful techniques; that couldn’t be further from the truth. I take the audience to a place where they are open and receptive to the experience.
While the mysteries of many classic magic tricks can now be unraveled via a quick Google search, high-end mentalism techniques are transmitted through tightly controlled feedback channels. “It’s still very clandestine,” says Silven. wonders is an invitation into this secret society, if only for a fleeting moment. “It’s an adventure that we all do together.”