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Doubly Impossible is an improvement on the Double Sawing variation of the Sawing a Woman in Half illusion, in which two people are sawed in half and reassembled with their lower halves switched. In this version of the illusion, the boxes used to cover the assistants while they are being divided are clear, rather than opaque.


The illusion was premièred by magician Stephen Mulhern on the ITV Saturday evening show Ant & Dec's Saturday Showdown on September 29th 2007.

Original performance[]

The performance began with Stephen introducing his two guest assistants for the evening, his Ministry of Mayhem and Holly & Stephen's Saturday Showdown co-presenter and occasional assistant Holly Willoughby, and her best friend, TV presenter Fearne Cotton. Holly was wearing a short-sleeved knee-length red dress with a black belt, while Fearne wore a white blouse and black knee-length skirt. He explained to them that he needed their help with the début of a brand new illusion, and asked if they'd be willing to help him. Both agreed, and two stagehands wheeled out a pair of Clearly Impossible sawing tables, while four more carried out the transparent covers.

Seeing the tables and covers, Holly, who'd been sawed in half by Stephen several times previously, commented that they looked very familiar, but wondered why Stephen needed two of them. Fearne, who's only experience of being sawed in half previously was when she took part in the UK TV première of the Impossible Sawing on the 2005 Children in Need telethon, replied that she thought she knew why, and didn't like the sound of things. Laughing, Stephen told them to relax, and asked them to lay down on the tables. Both sat down on their respective tables, swung their legs up onto them, and lay back. Stephen then went down into the audience and picked out two teenage girls, who he invited up onto the stage with him. Placing one of the girls at the bottom of each of the tables, he gave each of them a marker pen and asked them to sign one of Holly and Fearne's ankles. He then instructed them to take hold of Holly and Fearne's ankles and hold them in place on the tables all the time so that neither of them could curl up out of the way of the saw. He also pointed out the wooden strips that went across the width of the tables in line with Holly and Fearne's waists.

With the young girls holding on to Holly and Fearne's ankles, Stephen took one of the clear covers from a stagehand and placed it over Holly's legs, then took a second cover from another stagehand and placed it over her upper body. As he did this, Holly extended her arm through the opening in the side of the upper cover. Stephen then placed a wooden stock over Holly's ankles, and then a second one over her neck. With Holly secured within her box, Stephen then moved over to Fearne's table, placed the covers over her too, and then secured her neck and ankles with the stocks.

Turning to the audience, Stephen pointed out that, as the covers were transparent, they could clearly see both Holly and Fearne's bodies within them. He also pointed out that, as the young girls were holding on to their ankles, there was no way that either woman could move them without anyone knowing about it. As a result, there was no way that either of them would be able to curl up or otherwise move in an attempt to avoid what was coming next. As he said that, two stagehands wheeled out a trolley supporting a large metal frame, on which was mounted a large circular saw blade. Wheeling this over to Holly, they fixed it to the side of the table with the blade in line with the gap between the two clear covers. Stephen turned on the motor powering the saw and, after waiting a few moments for it to get up to speed, began to push it forwards through the table and covers. As it began to pass through the table, the audience gasped as they heard the sound of it cutting through the wooden strip below Holly's waist. As the saw advanced, the cameras zoomed in to show the edge of the saw blade projecting below the bottom of the table and the sawdust cascading from it onto the floor below. Holly gasped as the saw entered the side of the covers over her and she felt it begin to pass through her body within. With the concerned studio audience watching Holly being divided in two, the camera zoomed in through the clear top of the upper cover, showing that the saw was indeed cutting through Holly's waist just above her belt, and allowing the audience to see Holly's dress rippling as the saw cut through it.

Having finished cutting through Holly, Stephen swung the saw back out of her box and turned off the motor. The stagehands then detached the saw trolley from the table and wheeled it over to Fearne's table. Taking a pair of large metal divider blades from below the table, Stephen pushed them down through the cut he had just made, completing Holly's division. He then moved over to Fearne's table and repeated the process with her As the saw began to divide her, Fearne let out a slightly startled yelp. As with Holly's division, the cameras again zoomed in from above to show the saw clearly passing through her waist and causing her blouse to ripple as it sliced her in two. Having sawed through Fearne, Stephen then removed the saw and inserted the divider blades through her too.

Returning to Holly, Stephen released the catches holding the two halves of the table together. He then asked the girl who had been holding on to her ankles if she'd kept hold of them all the time and if they really were Holly's feet, ankles and legs. The girl answered that she had and that they were. He then asked her if he really had sawed through Holly and cut her in two, to which she answered that he had. Stephen told her to let go of Holly's ankles and take hold of the table instead. Having asked Holly if she was OK and got a reply in the affirmative, Stephen then pulled sharply on the head end of her table, separating her halves. As Holly smiled and her free hand explored the gap where her lower half should have been, the audience applauded wildly, while the girl who'd been holding her ankles looked amazed. Stephen then moved over to Fearne and, having unclipped the catches and asked the girl who'd been holding her ankles if they really were Fearne's feet sticking out of the box, pulled her halves apart too.

Having separated both Holly and Fearne's halves and accepted the audience's applause, Stephen then rolled Holly's legs over to by Fearne's top half and, taking Fearne's legs, rolled them over to Holly's top half. This led both of them to ask him what he was doing, to which he replied he was doing a swap. Despite both women's protests, he rolled the mis-matched halves together and latched them together with the catches. Taking hold of the divider blades, Stephen pulled them out of Holly's box, causing her to gasp as she felt the mis-matched halves join together. Stephen then walked over to Fearne and repeated the process with her, also causing her to gasp as the halves joined. Stephen then removed Fearne's stocks, and returned to Holly to remove hers too. The four stagehands who'd originally brought the covers on-stage reappeared and, each taking hold of one of the covers, lifted them off Holly and Fearne. Freed from the stocks and covers, both women sat up and, swinging their legs around, climbed down off the tables.

Now back on their feet, Holly and Fearne both looked down and their jaws dropped as they saw their new outfits. Holly, who had climbed onto the table wearing a red dress, now had a dress that was red down to her waist, and black from there to her knees. Fearne, who had started out wearing a white blouse and black skirt, still had her white blouse, but now her skirt was red with a black belt. As they both gave Stephen a dirty look, he asked the two girls to take a look at Holly and Fearne's ankles, which they had signed earlier in the performance. Stephen asked the girl who had signed and held Holly's ankles to look at Fearne's ankles, and the girl who had signed and held Fearne's to look at Holly's. Looking at Holly and Fearne's ankles, the two girls confirmed that the signature they had written on one woman's ankle was now clearly on the other's. Stephen asked them if this, combined with the fact that they'd held on to their ankles and seen them sawed in half right in front of them, was enough to convince them that Holly now had Fearne's lower half, and vice versa, and they agreed that it was.

Stephen thanked the two girls and told them they could return to their seats in the audience. Then, having assured Holly and Fearne that he'd give them their own legs back later, all three of them took their bow as the audience applauded and the show cut to a commercial break.


When performing on the BBC TV series The Magicians, magician Chris Korn and celebrity contestant Bruno Tonioli performed a male/female version of Double Impossible using boxes from the Les Arnold Crystal Sawing.

Notable Performances[]

  • At a private party in December 2019, a magician performed the Doubly Impossible sawing on singer Taylor Swift and her friend, actress and singer Hailee Steinfeld.
  • In 2010, a magician performed the Doubly Impossible sawing on actress and magic fan Mischa Barton and her younger sister Hania.