There’s no doubt about it: hypnosis is a fascinating skill. But it takes a little more than that to make a two hour show really pull off.
The show gets off to a bad start with an incredibly long opening soundtrack with strange (and blindingly too bright) lights taking over the stage. It seems a bit anti-climactic when an ordinary-looking man in a sharp suit saunters on stage and gives a basic explanation of hypnosis.
The audience members Newton chooses to take part in his ‘experiments’ are entertaining, and the process he uses to pick his subjects is fascinating. It’s interesting to see who can avoid hypnosis, and Newton quickly dismisses anyone who doesn’t fall into a ‘deep state’. His way of interacting with the audience and his volunteers is rude and high-handed. While this is no doubt part of his stage persona, it’s not a stage persona I personally connect with or find likeable.
The tasks given to Newton’s volunteers during their hypnosis is at times very juvenile (fleas down someone’s pants, for example). Others are a little more interesting, such as telling all volunteers that they are part of the Jeremy Kyle show. This particular part of the show prompted the funniest moment by far:
“At least I’m not on benefits like you!”
“Excuse me, I’m from Harrogate!”
The humour is reliant on the volunteers’ flamboyancy and strange behaviours. Newton serves as a puppet master rather than a conductor, and at times I wish he commentated more on the action to provide further wit and entertainment.
It all seems a little like bear-baiting to me, with ridiculous cackles rippling through the audience every time a poor soul out of their own control makes a complete fool of themselves. Yes, they have volunteered to take part, but for me the show could have only been funny if it was a little more ‘laughing with them’ rather than ‘laughing at them’.
It’s undoubted that Newton has an incredible skill and really can hypnotise people. Witnessing that alone is a great experience, and has potential to be a fantastic night out. Potentially a different crowd could attract different results. As Newton says himself throughout the evening: “every show is different”, so it may be worth checking out another one of his performances and seeing how a different set of people react.
Catch Andrew Newton on tour! He next visits Leeds City Varieties in March 2017 if you fancy going along.