An innocent trip to watch an amateur hypnotist proves unexpectedly controversial
As a fact-loving, scientific-theory-behind-everything-spouting neuroscientist and a blonde, self-professedly naff English student, tonight’s reviewers were never going to see eye-to-eye on ‘The Hypnotist’.
The Dream Team Reviewing Machine, as it modestly calls itself, agrees on most things: the sanctity of rowing; widespread societal undervaluation of sake; the majority of film and comedy; the likelihood of Reviewer 2 sleeping with any given individual in any given situation.
Hypnotism, R2 had predicted, would throw up some amusing differences of opinion with which to spice up a Tab review. (R1 did not predict anything. Until arrival, R1 thought ‘The Hypnotist’ was the name of a play.)
That said, even R2 had not expected an ADC late-show, branded as ‘comedy’, to prove quite so divisive.
Here are some things on which DTRM agreed. The set resembled an abandoned airport terminal struck unexpectedly by forest fire, whose smoke rapidly engulfed the first few rows of the audience and yet which did nothing to quieten what the BBC would have subtitled ‘EERIE PAN-PIPE MUSIC’.
Hypnotist Kyle Fearn, when he emerged through the fog, was wearing an ill-fitting, Austin Powers-esque, purple velvet jacket, which clashed awkwardly with his burgundy hair. R2 began to wonder whether R1 had been right all along, and this was, in fact, a play.
After some preliminary foreplay, we got down to business. From a veritable scrum of willing volunteers, Fearn invited ten suitable candidates onto the stage, all of whom were put into a hypnotic state.
R1 considered this the result of persuasion, our hypnotees falling victims to an extreme form of peer pressure. ‘Obedience is a quality which is engrained in us from an early age,’ he remarked. R2 thought it was jolly interesting.
From their hypnotic state, the show’s incidental stars were induced to perform activities ranging from the adorable (tear-jerking attachment to a cuddly toy), to the hilarious (a girl whose unreasonable fury was triggered by laughter, seated next to a boy inexplicably laughing), to the plain weird (total loss of English language).
The audience responded to the majority of the show with riotous, if sometimes incredulous, laughter.
R2 thought it was all good craic and, whilst sometimes veering into the creepy side, would recommend one of Fearn’s shows to anyone with a passing interest in hypnotism.
R1 found the whole thing unbearable to watch, a human zoo whose vulnerable victims were humiliated for the obscene pleasure of their heckling audience, not unlike a drinking society initiation.
If there’s one thing we should take from it, it’s the terrifying reality of the weakness of the human mind, and its potential so easily to be manipulated. Exposed to the hierarchical power structures of Western society, it is if anything sad that the audience found the show funny rather than a shocking call to action.
Go free, people of Cambridge. Liberate yourselves.
Vive la revolution. Vive la France.