I always look forward to reviewing anything by Josh Jay, and his “Unreal” is another first rate and worthwhile title. The four-disc DVD set offers a performance of Jay’s one-man show, and teaches for parlor/stand-up and close-up, as well as .
The ads lack names and descriptions of the tricks. Are the publishers simply relying on Jay’s strong reputation to sell DVDs? I don’t know. And is it up to the reviewer to describe each trick in detail?
With a four-disc set, this is quite an undertaking. Anyway, I’m game.
The first disc presents Jay’s stage show. It’s an entertaining and well-staged production. I enjoyed the themes that Jay has woven throughout that touch on inspirations and events from his life. However, unlike DVD titles by , and , Jay does not teach all of the tricks that are in it.
Editor's Note: In my May 1, 2015 video update, I mistakenly stated that Jay does not teach the tricks in his show. He teaches some of the tricks in detail.
Disc 2: Standup
The second disc focuses on parlor or stand-up effects. Inferno, is a card prediction with a book of matches. Several spectators name parameters for a playing card until a single card is identified. And that very named playing card is found inside the match box.
David Regal offered his “Disposable Deck” effect with a similar theme and plot, but Jay goes beyond to incorporate other methods that reduce the number of questions. Of note, Jay markets this effect but you can make your own. A warning, to make your own, you may have to purchase some reasonably priced dealer items.
One of the best effects is Jay’s . A bill is borrowed and a corner is torn off and given to a spectator as a “receipt.” The bill vanishes and is found in an impossible place. And of course, the torn corner (receipt) matches. While there are many versions of this effect, Jay's decidedly different approach is worth exploring. His emphasis is not on the vanish or the impossible place - that’s mostly left to you - but on matching the corner. I really like his methodology. By the way, this one works equally well as a close-up effect.
A trick called Sherlock offers a Sherlockian theme with multiple decks and several spectators. While blindfolded, you have one spectator select a deck and choose a playing card. This card is placed in a glass and covered with a cloth. At the end, you can tell who picked the deck (the “culprit”), what deck was picked, and what card was selected. It’s a lengthy but strong bit of mentalism with a great plot and theme. You’ll need multiple decks, and put together other materials for this routine.
A three coin glass production relies on sound as much as sleights. As Jay teaches it, this 45-second routine has several specific requirements that make it well beyond the realm of an impromptu effect.
And it’s probably more of a close-up effect on a carefully prepared table than a parlor effect. Trash to Treasure is Jay’s take on David Roth’s “Wild Coin.” Here, several items: a button, a key and more, are changed into coins and deposited into a can. At the end, the coins have changed back into their original objects.
Disc 3: Close-Up
The third disc features close-up material. There’s a fantastic multi-phased card routine that ends in a stunning color change of the entire deck. Intermediate phases offer strong effects that include Eddie Fechter’s famous transposition of two pairs of cards in the spectator’s hand, a card under box segment, and some bits with the four aces. After the color changing deck, Jay follows up with his marketed “Phantom Deck.” You can read about the joy and power of the Phantom Deck in my review.
There are three triumph effects. One features a clever and brilliant display of the deck having “righted” itself, but then, when displayed immediately afterwards, an entire suit is found to be turned the other way, in order. The third Triumph, called Back in Time, is a strong in-the-hands routine that relies on a method by Larry Jennings and Bill Goodwin that’s combined with a theme by Jay Sankey.
An amazing prediction is completely self-working and features lots of spectator interaction. Jay says that he came up with the routine when he was recuperating from his hand injury. It’s something of a torn and restored card that’s combined with a prediction where spectators freely select a card. Well done. The remaining effects rely on clever, non- methods that include a gaffed deck and instant stooging (but the participants themselves will probably not know it). There’s also a new version of Blind Man’s Bluff. They are all foolers.
Disc 4: More Close-Up
The final disc features a great version of “anniversary waltz.” Of note, Jay structures the routine and deck so he can perform it some 20 times before needing to replenish and reset the deck. This is a great approach for strolling magicians.
I love his take on r. Jay’s version is visual, and requires no gaffs or extra cards. I recall this routine from his excellent “Talk About Tricks" DVD set from years ago. There’s a great take on “ring on card” that’s based on an idea by Jay Sankey. A spectator’s freely selected card vanishes from the deck and is found in a card box rolled up inside a borrowed finger ring that was placed there earlier.
Royal Assembly is a notable effect where you can take aces in a poker deal that’s been distributed to other players and mysteriously bring them to your hand to win. In the second phase, you clearly deal the aces to the other players, but you end up with a royal flush. Jay also teaches a great Haunted Pack effect based on an idea by Steve Valentine.
Jay teaches techniques that include the “bluff pass” and “bottom dealing.” Each disc features an interview to offer further insights on Jay’s magic, approach and thoughts.
The discs feature first rate and clear video work with lots of close-ups, and most of the performances are in front of real audiences.
In all, "Unreal" is an outstanding and worthwhile DVD set. It’s certain to be among the top ten magic products of 2015.