One thing is clear from the title of Ben Dali’s show, Trance of a Lifetime: his amazing commitment to terrible puns. He has, in fact, had three years of Fringe hypnotism shows with similarly pun-based titles, which he lists at the start of this show. All of them are equally fantastic. The actual content of his show provokes more mixed reactions.
Unlike many hypnotist shows that ease the audience into things with some mind reading, Dali heads straight into the hypnotism. He also limits his hypnotic participants to volunteers who choose to step on to the stage at the start of the show, rather than attempting to hypnotize the entire audience. This is a great way to ensure that his participants are fully willing—although arguably even if he had gone for the whole audience approach he would still only get willing participants, as the unwilling would fight the trance state. It did leave him open to unsuccessfully hypnotized participants playing along for fun, and indeed several such individuals left the stage at various points in the show.
It is perhaps unimportant that several participants played along in the show for a while as Dali’s methods for demonstrating his hypnotic influence are entirely based on getting his participants to put on a spectacle for the remainder of his audience. This often involves getting them to perform actions that are presumably so embarrassing that they would be unwilling to go through with them if not for the hypnosis. It does at times, however, almost feel like a caricature of hypnotism at its creepiest and most manipulative.
To his credit, Dali is careful to ensure that his hypnotism is only extended to the consenting adults who have chosen to step on to his stage. At the reviewed performance, two young girls were mimicking the participants as they entered the trance state. Dali took the time to check on them and establish that they had definitely not fallen under his sway.
Dali’s comedic hypnotism is a specific style that, if his crowds on a Tuesday evening are anything to go by, is very popular. He is certainly good at what he does. It is likely that those who attend his show in the hopes of being hypnotized, or gawking at those who have been, will not be disappointed.
Ben Dali can be found at Liquid Rooms Annexe (Venue 276) during the 2018 Edinburgh Fringe at 22:00 from August 23-26
More information on Ben Dali and his performance dates can be found here