stage hypnosis

BEN DALI: TRANCE OF A LIFETIME

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

I CAN READ YOUR MIND

Tomas McCabe has helpfully gone down the descriptive route in naming his Fringe show.  As his audiences descend into his basement venue, they definitely all know what to expect from McCabe in I Can Read Your Mind.  The large venue fills close to capacity, but McCabe’s warm and friendly stage presence draws in even those seated at the very back.

McCabe opens his show with a demonstration of his mind reading abilities, perfectly predicting the choices of his chosen audience member.  This allows him to quickly transition into a more practical application of mind reading, how to detect liars.  McCabe frames this as a lesson for the audience, pointing out what he is looking for as he detects successive participants’ attempted deceptions.  This lesson even comes with a test, as McCabe takes an audience poll to discover the final liar, adding a fun level of mass interaction to the show.

Another segment of the show features hypnotism, which McCabe introduces by asking all audience members who were open to being hypnotized to stand up so that he can do his best to put them in a trance.  It is comforting that he is open with his intentions and gives his audience the chance to abstain from this section, as surprise hypnotism can be alarming.  McCabe is respectful of the audience members who he does successfully hypnotize, including the one who he chooses to join him on stage to exhibit the depth of her trance.  However, McCabe’s hypnotic demonstrations are really just more mind reading.  This is not necessarily a criticism of his show, he is upfront about his specialty in its name, but it does make the hypnotism itself seem unnecessary.

I Can Read Your Mind is performed in a sizable, echoing venue, so at the performance reviewed, the audience was understandably noticeably concerned when McCabe’s microphone started cutting in and out.  McCabe dealt with this incredibly effectively, making jokes about the technical issues and ensuring that the entire audience could still hear what he was saying.  Luckily for the audience, McCabe was able to work through this complication and, when necessary, project his voice all the way to the back of the room.

I Can Read Your Mind is a worthy mind reading show, and is deservedly popular, as it manages to fill such a large venue.  McCabe’s lovely enthusiasm for getting the audience involved in every step of his mentalist tricks charms his audience and makes for an excellent and entertaining event.

 

I Can Read Your Mind can be found at Liquid Room Annexe (Venue 276) during the 2018 Edinburgh Fringe at 21:05 from August 20-26

More information on Tomas McCabe and his performance dates can be found here

AARON CALVERT: DECLASSIFIED

Aaron Calvert has chosen a timely theme for his new Fringe show, Declassified. As Calvert explains in his opening remarks, on his inauguration, Trump declassified vast archives of information about some of the United States’s quirkier Cold War era research projects. Calvert’s jokes at Trump’s expense ensure that his audience knows that he is on the right side of history. The rest of the show is framed as an exploration into these declassified archives.

An early segment of Declassified features a classic mind reading trick using several cards with a range of simple shapes. This fits neatly into the Cold War theme. The story often told alongside these props is that they were used by the CIA to study subjects’ mind reading capabilities during the Cold War, and that when the Cold War ended and these research projects were disbanded several subjects used the same cards to demonstrate their skills in magic shows. Calvert puts his own stamp on this classic by adding a hypnotist twist.

Calvert soon shifts into the more hypnotism-centric part of the show, attempting to put the entire audience into a hypnotic state in order to find the best participants for the evening. The process is pleasantly relaxing, even for those who do not reach a full hypnotic trance. A selected few of those who do make it to that state are brought onstage to demonstrate the depth of their hypnosis. Unlike the seedy hypnotist stereotype, Calvert is respectful and empathetic toward those who he has successfully hypnotized.

Here Calvert shifts from his stated theme of the recently declassified files that he discusses at the start of his show, and spends more time relating his demonstrations to modern urban legends. Cold War enthusiasts may be disappointed. However, Calvert’s interpretation of this theme is ultimately uplifting. Rather than re-create the experiments of the Cold War era, Declassified is a new experiment designed to demonstrate the same theory, that individuals are capable of extraordinary feats.

If there is a criticism to be leveled at Declassified it is precisely that, its title. The titular declassified documents feel underused, as they are hardly mentioned beyond the opening political quips. The link between the Cold War theme and the later segments of the show is muddled with Calvert’s increasing reliance on modern urban legends to bring thematic structure to his demonstrations. Declassified would perhaps be better described by a title that evokes urban legends in general rather than one evocative of such a specific aspect of history.

Declassified succeeds as an impressive display of hypnosis, and is enhanced by Calvert’s optimistic attitude toward his audience. Calvert’s style of hypnotism comes across as benevolent rather than manipulative, as he proves his power over his hypnotized participants by compelling them to perform exceptional stunts rather than pointlessly embarrassing actions, while still putting on an entertaining show for his audience. Calvert’s refreshing take on hypnosis makes Declassified well worth the visit.

 

Aaron Calvert can be found at The Gilded Balloon at the Museum during the 2018 Edinburgh Fringe, at 18:00 on August 5-26

More information on Aaron Calvert and his performance dates can be found here

STRICTLY COME TRANCING

☆☆

Lunchtime is perhaps not the right time for a hypnosis show for adults. Strictly Come Trancing is a show where you can see how it could have been great – if only the sky had been a bit darker and the audience participants a bit tipsier.

The beginning of the performance is promising. Despite hypnotist Ben Dali’s suit screaming ‘sleazy’, his brand of humor is genuine and unaffected, connecting very well with his audience and establishing a base of comradery. Unfortunately, this is quickly lost.

The first thing that goes wrong is that Dali invites his participants onstage instead of doing an opening induction of hypnosis on the audience while people are in their seats. Giving people the option of bringing themselves onto the stage of their own will means that they later feel welcome to leave it in the same fashion. Once people are onstage, the hypnotic inductions are unnecessarily long. Perhaps Dali doesn’t feel comfortable starting the show without this, but the length of it seems boring – and quite probably for those onstage as well. Once the show actually starts, the audience has high expectations for the wait to pay off. Sadly it does not.

In most shows, you cannot blame the audience for the performance being bad. But it is difficult to find fault with Dali’s act. Rarely are all the participants in a stage hypnosis show going to be hypnotised. This doesn’t matter if people play along and give their friends something to laugh at. After all, they choose to be on the stage. But despite Dali’s best efforts, he cannot manage to summon up the necessary humor and connection with his participants to make them want to stay. To his credit, he troops on through the act impressively despite the quickly dispersing participants, but this actually just makes it more painful to watch.

Dali’s Strictly Come Trancing is a funny show with a great title, and is a great and free way to spend an hour laughing at your friends doing silly – but not humiliating – things. But in order for everyone to appreciate it, the people onstage participating need to commit to the show. Because if not, it is an tragically awkward experience.

 

More information on Ben Dali and his performance dates can be found here

Originally published here