Aaron Calvert at the Nottingham Arts Theatre
With an abundance of charisma and undeniable skill, Aaron Calvert certainly put on a show – when things went his way.
Illusionist and third year medical student at Nottingham University, Aaron Calvert, opened his show Mind Games with the somewhat overt warning “this show contains hypnosis” (let me find my tinfoil hat then).
Throwing a toy into the audience to dispel any ideas of arranged participation, Calvert’s strength came from the clever psychological “games”.
Guessing which colour button participants had picked just by asking them to imagine, for example, if you came home to find your girlfriend had knitted you a jumper in that colour was impressive.
Reading people’s reactions and body language was what amazed most because it’s something we all do every day. Calvert made everything engaging; inviting us to analyse the people on stage to test our own skill too.
One notable moment was his memory of thirty audience member names in order to recall three that were missing from the list in just twenty seconds – even with the ominous sound of the Countdown clock.
He didn’t always get it right though. Guessing one girl’s favourite childhood toy went a bit haywire when Sarah the Dinosaur was, as a matter of fact, Bongo the Monkey. Some number guessing games were also a few out- much to the awkward disappointment of the audience.
Finally, Calvert claimed the myth of “only stupid people” falling for hypnosis was false, yet the (mainly female) entourage of zombie-like “volunteers” became more a laughing stock than a display of any real skill by Calvert – even they looked doubtful of any real hold he had over them.
When he was good, he was really good – witty and genuinely awe-inspiring, displaying the remarkable art of observing human behaviour at lightning speed in order to access information we thought we had under lock and key.
Yet the slips and the tedious attempt at hypnosis gained more sneers from the audience; it became more of an exploitation than a demonstration of real skill.