Clearly Impossible is a variation of the Sawing a Woman in Half illusion devised by magician Jonathan Pendragon. Unlike most other versions of the illusion, it uses clear-sided boxes that allow the assistant to be seen throughout the performance.
The illusion was devised by Jonathan Pendragon in the early 1990s, with assistance from Joseph Patire, and first performed by Jonathan and his then-wife Charlotte. According to Jonathan, discussing the illusion on a DVD he produced that talks about it in detail, it was developed as a result of experiments he did with the "Disc Sawing" performed by Doug Henning on his 1978 TV special. He also claims to have been unaware of the very similar Les Arnold Crystal Sawing until after he had started to perform Clearly Impossible in public. When first devised, the exclusive manufacturing rights were held by Bill Smith. By 2009, those rights had apparently passed to Dan Summers.
The illusion is very similar in principle and performance to the older "Thin Model" versions of sawing a woman in half, with the exception that the boxes used to cover the assistant being divided are clear, rather than opaque. In basic concept, it is very similar to the transparent sawing known as the Crystal Sawing developed by Les Arnold in the late 1970s. However, in the Pendragon's version, the boxes are much smaller, and are never covered at any point during the illusion. As a result, the assistant within the boxes remains in full view throughout, making this a particularly baffling illusion for the audience.
PerformanceThe illusion usually begins with the magician showing the audience a low table, designed to split into two halves. The main assistant is then introduced, and lays down on the table. Other assistants then place two boxes over the assistant, with clear sides and tops. As the upper box is placed over them, the main assistant extends their arm out of the open side of the box, while their head and feet extend out of the ends of the two boxes. Small stocks are then used to restrain the assistant's feet and neck.
The magician then cuts through the box using either a saw or sword (although some performers skip this step), and dividers are placed into the box either side of the cut. With the dividers in place, the two halves of the table are unlocked and pulled apart. As the assistant has been in full view throughout the illusion, it is clear to the audience that the assistant's body really has been divided into two halves, the impossibility of this situation helping to give the illusion its name. The halves of the table are then pushed back together, the dividers removed, and the unharmed assistant released from the stocks and boxes.
Recently, rather than using one of their regular assistants or a celebrity guest, some magicians have begun performing the illusion on a volunteer from the audience.
Magician Jamie Allan's "Laser Sawing" is a version of Clearly Impossible using a vertical industrial laser beam to divide the box and assistant in half.
In many recent versions, the assistant is able to extend their arms out of both sides of the box.
As the boxes used have clear sides, the audience is able to see right through them, and can see that the assistant is still fully restrained by the stocks and has not curled up inside the upper box, as is described in many commonly available magic books for the "Big Box" sawing. This continuous visibility allows the magician to prove conclusively to the audience that the assistant really has been cut in half and divided into two pieces. As a result, Clearly Impossible has the greatest audience impact of any commonly performed sawing illusion.
- While she was married to David Copperfield, and not otherwise occupied with modelling work, Claudia Schiffer often assisted David in his stage shows as a "special guest assistant". Part of these shows was a performance of Clearly Impossible, with Claudia as the assistant being sawed in half by David. To help reinforce the fact that Claudia was not curling up inside the upper box to avoid the saw, David had an audience member hold on to her feet all the way through the illusion until after her halves had been pulled apart.
- When she took part in a 2003 photoshoot with photographer Sam Jones, actress Heather Graham was first levitated by a magician, and then sawed in half in his Clearly Impossible illusion. Although pictures of the levitation have been published, those of the sawing have not and remain unseen.
- In November 2004, singer Shania Twain appeared on the BBC charity telethon Children in Need as a celebrity assistant in a magic act, being sawed in half in a performance of Clearly Impossible.
- Italian singer Sabrina Salerno assisted illusionist Martin in a televised performance of Clearly Impossible.
- While presenting SM:TV Live, British TV presenter Cat Deeley was the first British celebrity to be sawed in half in a performance of Clearly Impossible.
- After Blue Peter presenter Zöe Salmon posted in her blog on the show's website that she had a long-held ambition to have a go at being sawed in half by a magician, fans of the show began a began a "Please saw Zöe in half" campaign. As a result of this campaign, Zöe filmed a feature in which she became a magician's assistant. After the filmed segment had been shown, the magician then joined her in the studio for a live performance, in which she was sawed in half in the magician's Clearly Impossible illusion.
- In 2006, British model and TV presenter Abigail Clancy was sawed in half by a magician in his Clearly Impossible illusion during an appearance on the daytime TV show Richard & Judy.
- When British illusion act The Twins appeared on Blue Peter in February 2011, they performed their Clearly Impossible sawing on BBC Newsround presenter Sonali Shah.
- In early April 2010, The Twins made two appearances on BBC TV performing their Clearly Impossible sawing on a celebrity assistant. On April 8th, they appeared on The ONE Show, on which they sawed former ballerina Darcey Bussell in half. Then, on April 16th, they sawed presenter Susanna Reid in half when they appeared on the BBC's early morning BBC Breakfast show.
- In November 2009, The Twins appeared on the annual BBC Children in Need telethon, performing their Clearly Impossible sawing on former model and TV presenter Melinda Messenger.
- At the 2009 World magic Awards, The Twins performed their Clearly Impossible sawing on a female volunteer from the audience.
- When she presented a feature on how the success of the Harry Potter franchise had led to an increase in the interest in magic in the UK, BBC Newsround presenter Ellie Crisell finished her report by taking part in a performance of Clearly Impossible.
- During a promotional visit to Europe, Jessica Simpson participated in a performance of the illusion where she was sawed in half by illusionist Hans Klok, who used a large circular saw to divide her in two.
- When she interviewed Hans Klok on Channel 5 News, weather presenter Lara Lewis achieved her ambition to become a magician's assistant when she was sawed in half by Hans in his Clearly Impossible illusion.
- In 2003, magician Joe Labero performed the Clearly Impossible sawing on singer Louise Redknapp when she appeared as a guest on his TV special Magician Impossible.
- When she appeared on a Mexican talk show, Penelope Cruz took part in a performance of this illusion.
- In the season 4 episode of Bones, Double Trouble in The Panhandle, the characters of Brennan and Booth go undercover as performers in a touring circus. In addition to the two of them performing a knife-throwing act, Brennan (Emily Deschanel) also assists a magician, being sawed in half in his Clearly Impossible sawing.
- In 2005, magician Pete Firman performed the Clearly Impossible sawing on TV presenter Zöe Ball when she appeared as a guest on the TV magic show Dirty Tricks.
- At the annual Broadway Cares’ Easter Bonnet Competition in April 2005, actress Christina Applegate was sawed in half by a magician in his Clearly Impossible illusion.
- While appearing on Japanese TV during a 2006 promotional visit to the country, Mischa Barton was asked by the show's host if she could help out a local magician with a couple of tricks. Mischa agreed and, after helping with a card trick, she was then sawed in half by the magician using his version of Clearly Impossible.
- Magician Stephen Mulhern has performed Clearly Impossible a number of times on his former Ministry of Mayhem co-presenter Holly Willoughby, including on his CITV magic show Tricky TV. When Holly married Ministry of Mayhem producer Dan Baldwin in 2007, Stephen entertained the guests at their wedding reception by performing the illusion on Holly's chief bridesmaid, her sister Kelly.
- When French Canadian magician Frederic Clement performs his version of the illusion, which he titles his "Better Half Operation", he invites an audience member up on stage to feel the feet of his divided assistant to prove that they are real and that the assistant really has been cut in two. In his version of the illusion, Clement uses a large industrial laser to divide the assistant.
- At the 44th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards, after being made to appear inside an apparently empty glass elevator, Taylor Swift was sawed in half by David Copperfield using his version of the illusion.
- When she made a guest appearance on the Australian version of Big Brother in 2008, former Baywatch actress Pamela Anderson agreed to let local magician Matt Hollywood perform a number of illusions on her, including sawing her in half in his version of Clearly Impossible.
- In January 2011, actress Samantha Womack chose being sawed in half in a performance of Clearly Impossible as her "celebrity's choice" live trick when she appeared on the BBC TV show The Magicians.
- In January 2012, magician Hans Klok performed his Clearly Impossible sawing on model and TV presenter Alexa Chung at the London fashion Week show of designer Stella McCartney. Originally, it was planned that he would perform the illusion on model and magic fan Kate Moss, and she spent several days working with Hans to rehearse the illusion. However, she was forced to drop out of the show after suffering a temporary paralysis of her right arm due to a trapped nerve, and so Alexa stepped in at short notice to replace her.
- A month later in February 2012, during the press night at the Peacock Theatre in London for his stage show The Houdini Experience, Hans Klok invited actress Louisa Lytton up onto the stage and sawed her in half in his Clearly Impossible illusion.
- Australian magician Cosentino regularly performs the illusion in his stage shows, using it with a circular saw to saw in half a female volunteer from the audience.
- In February 2013, magician Jamie Allan appeared on BBC Breakfast performing his "Laser Sawing" on presenter Susanna Reid.
- In December 2014, during his one-off TV special Darcy Oake: Edge of Reality, magician Darcy Oake performed the Clearly Impossible sawing on show host Christine Bleakley.
- In February 2020, during an appearance on Good Morning Britain, Darcy Oake performed the illusion on presenter Kate Garraway.
- In a magazine article published in February 2020, actress Jennifer Garner revealed that she'd been sawed in half several times by a magician in the Clearly Impossible sawing. Jennifer's eldest daughter, Violet, has been a really big magic fan ever since she was five and saw Jennifer take part in the Bow Saw illusion. Since then, Jennifer has had to hire Violet's favorite magician as the entertainment at Violet's birthday parties, and he closes his show by performing Clearly Impossible on the birthday child's mother or another audience member. According to Jennifer, she'd been sawed in half by him four times, her older sister Melissa had been sawed once, and one of the other mothers twice.
- In the magazine article where she revealed that she'd been sawed in half several times in Clearly Impossible, Jennifer Garner also revealed that she arranged a special surprise for eldest daughter Violet's 14th birthday. As Violet is now the same height as Jennifer, and so is tall enough to fit in the box, Jennifer arranged for her to be the one who got sawed in half.
- When she appeared on the March 10, 2020 episode of The Late Late Show with James Corden, actress Elle Fanning was sawed in half by show host James Corden in a performance of Clearly Impossible, using a large circular saw to make the division.
- ↑ http://www.magictelevision.org/portal/index.php?/The.Art.of.Magic.html
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 Schneider, A., "A New Clear Sawing", Genii magazine, June 1993 (Vol 56, No 6).
- ↑ Moehring, J., "The Century: The Pendragons", Magic magazine, Vol.8 No.12 (August 1999).
- ↑ YouTube video of French magicians Raphael and Caroline Marx performing the Les Arnold clear sawing
- ↑ The Pendragons performing Clearly Impossible in Cincinnati 1998 PBS TV Special 
- ↑ Bryant, S. "Claudia Schiffer: From Supermodel to Magician's Assistant". Genii magazine, August 1996, (Vol 59, No 8.).
- ↑ David Copperfield AskMen.com. Retrieved 26 April 2009.
- ↑ Top 10 Celebrity Odd Couples Film.com. Retrieved 26 April 2009
- ↑ YouTube clip of performance
- ↑ Dirty Tricks, Episode 1.4. IMDb.com.
- ↑ Pearson, Jennifer (2012-10-20). "Leggy lady! Alexa Chung ditches heels for practical flats (but her gams still steal the show in micro-mini dress)". London: dailymail.co.uk. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2220529/Alexa-Chung-turns-heads-micro-mini-dress.html. Retrieved 2012-10-22.
- ↑ Magic man Cosentino to bring artistry to screen. Greater Dandenong Weekly, 16 January 2012.