Improv. Hypnosis. Action!
For the skeptics, the premise of improvisation under hypnosis will already sound dubious, so expectations on the delivery will be low. For the believers, particularly those living in the murky depths of the show’s audience reviews, disappointment seems a guarantee. So the lowdown: Asad Mecci, hypnotist, asks for volunteers to fill the seats onstage, and guides them through a series of hypnotic suggestions until he has his five subjects for the evening. Enter Colin Mochrie (previously Mike McShane for the first fortnight) who conducts the improvised scenarios with some audience input, and the additional twist from Asad. Cue curtain.
Shows like this are a two-way process: either suspend disbelief, or analyse the entire evening as it happens. The reality is that any set-up that self-describes as improvised will only be semi-true. Take into account the context of the show – a late night slot near open bars, and the first piece of audience interaction is an invitation to the empty stage. If everything was truly improvised, that would be asking for trouble, not least because the show would never end, with a new scenario, plot and goal needing conjured every ten minutes.
So let’s accept that audience members have been pre-selected (perhaps from the queue?), and that the vague structure of the evening is pre-meditated, the burning question remains: was it any good? Yes and no. The audience were laughing, and the energy was high. But the real problem, fundamentally, revolves around the misconception of hypnosis by the public and, in this case, the performers. Why? Because it is still being sold as mind-control.
By definition, it is “a state of human consciousness involving focused attention and reduced peripheral awareness and an enhanced capacity to respond to suggestion“. So what fuels the main response of ‘fraud’ is the supposed volunteers zombified performance, being so overwhelmed by the spell that they are on the verge of falling over and out of their chair. As if starting the night with the ‘volunteers’ charging the stage before Asad had finished his sentence wasn’t suspect enough, their ‘participation’ is increasingly oversold, eager to please the laughing crowd but while often breaking the character they’re totally not playing. Overall, harmless fun on a half-price ticket – a full price experience may vary.
‘Hyprov: Improv Under Hypnosis‘, Assembly George Square Theatre
And now for something completely different.
Because Brewhemia is still in its infancy, a little leniency seems fair. Building a reputation and consistency in what it programs takes time, so what might work one night may not garner the same response the next.
Debauchery is, in essence, a variety night with live music and solo installation acts, interacting with punters and encouraging dancing. Each night is different on purpose, which is where the notion of consistency comes into play, and Friday night was a standard to set their future nights by. With a skank-inducing, hip-twisting punk-ska set-list, those reinforced drinking table-legs were put to good use by public and performers, well into the witching hours.