They say that you can't teach an old dog new tricks, but that can not be said of this caterpillar. More known for their flamboyant trick of being bound up and struggling inside a silk cage before emerging, with mere moments to spare, triumphantly as a butterfly, they are now branching out in new directions with shows designed to ingest life, and a touch of modernity, into their age-old theatrics.
These are the original Houdinis, around long before even Houdini got out of his first handcuffs. These were the magicians that were emerging from cages millennia before Chris Angel swung inside a box 4,000 feet in the air. Who better than to branch out with daring new tricks to amaze and delight? And while other magicians are waved off as fakes and frauds, the caterpillar has managed to evoke the same mystery and wonder with their latest show as they do when turning into a butterfly. But it's not, it seems, for the faint of heart.
It can be said that a magic trick without risk, particularly an escapist one, is no more entertaining than your dad mysteriously asking you to pull his finger for the very first time - maybe even less so. It is the suspense of the moment, the build-up of tension, and sudden release of euphoria that make these tricks an experience for all, and it was with this that the caterpillar had demonstrated their willingness to push the envelope by not only introducing a knife as the tool by which they escape but also making it impossible for the knife-wielder to have known where they were when the blade cut through the soft capsicum flesh. The audience, after the initial joy, is left amazed as to how the blade did not cut through the caterpillar as well. This is in addition to wondering how it got in the capsicum to begin with.
It seems that the caterpillar, to freshen up their image, has taken cues from the greats such as Houdini, or Dietrich, or a user on social media expressing their opinion about a popular movie. It is in the risks they took that gave those watching such a reward. And if judged on this alone, one cannot but declare the performance by the caterpillar a success.
Another thing that set the show apart was that the caterpillar didn't even ask for a volunteer, and it was this small detail that made the whole thing even more mysterious. Normally when a magician calls in someone from the audience, there's a level of doubt that enters the viewers' mind as to whether the 'reluctant participant' is a plant or not. But not here; in this show, the plant is the prop, while the participant is blissfully unaware that they have been volunteered. It gave the audience no chance to doubt their bona fides.
What is more, it did not take from the participant any of the enjoyment either. Writing on their personal blog, they said that "while I didn't realise I was a part of the show, I still enjoyed it very much. I was fascinated with the whole thing. Even standing right there, with the knife, it was so hard to work out how the trick was done. And to have the show in my own kitchen gave it a sense of realism I've not seen in other magic shows."
Some viewers of course miss the familiar caterpillar performance of turning into a butterfly, and some on social media have asked the question as to whether the caterpillar actually pulled off performance in its entirety. Rumours and cast leaks have hinted at a theory that the caterpillar had originally planned on turning into a butterfly within the capsicum, thus combining the old with the new. Whether true or not, however, with the brave new direction the caterpillar seems to be taking with their transformative shows, there will always be a sense of nostalgia for their most famous magic trick and we can only hope that they do manage to mix them in the future.
There is something to be said for the tried and true, and we can't for a moment ignore the failed opportunities these experiments often turn out to be. There is a big risk that while flashy and mesmerising, these ventures end up providing no nourishment for those involved and end up baring hollow fruit. The cynic in me says that when they are older and in harder times, these caterpillars will go back to turning into a butterfly, leaving those participants behind with a sense of waste and dissatisfaction.
And it must be acknowledged that not everyone thought the performance was deserving of so much praise, with one reviewer stating that "the show wasn't that great, to be honest; we could see the hole in the capsicum he crawled in. It just spoiled the whole thing."