Simon Warner: Viva Hypnosis

Cabaret & Variety

Zoo (Venue 124)

Aug 11th – 14th, 18th – 29th



The Edinburgh Fringe is an opportunity once a year to go and see things you’ve never seen before and that have always intrigued you.  Stage hypnosis is one of those things for me, and I asked to review a hypnosis show this year approaching it with intrigue and a fair degree of scepticism.  Can people of the public really be influenced to do wild and crazy things on stage or is hypnosis just an elaborate hoax with stooges in the audience ready to entertain the crowds?

Warner claims to transport the audience to the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas, and while that might be a mighty feat in a venue that is usually a church in Edinburgh, the X-Factor style opening video, pounding techno beats and two Scottish showgirls with flashing LED twirling whips goes some way to creating that illusion.  After his entrance, and a few jokes, Warner immediately gets going with a simple test the whole audience participates in to see how “susceptible” we might be.  Although this test worked on me quite well I was even more intrigued when Warner pointed out me, my fellow reviewer and a gentleman sat next to us as having some “potential.”  When any audience member interested in being a participant was invited to the stage it was impossible not to throw caution to the wind and plonk ourselves on one of the vacant chairs.

This is where the review veers away from the norm, as reviewer becomes participant.  After a couple more tests to remove the least susceptible, around seven participants were left on stage – needless to say fellow reviewer and myself were two of them.   I never thought myself particularly susceptible – I have a collection of self-hypnosis sleep recordings that have never helped me drift off to sleep – but it appears on this occasion, I was.

Despite being under Warner’s influence I have a good recollection of the show and the various acts I performed.  All of the instructions were fun, and not embarrassing for someone extroverted enough to volunteer to go on stage in the first place.  I’m guessing that Warner is experienced enough to filter out anyone unsuitable in this regard during the selection process anyway.  The feeling of being under hypnosis was curious, and not what I expected it to be like.  I never felt like I had to do the things he asked, instead I just felt a huge desire to want to do those things.  Even when translating alien gobbledygook into English, or insisting my name wasn’t David but Susan.

If you have also ever wondered what it’s like to be hypnotised on stage then this show is probably one of the best chances you’ll ever get.  I could hear audience members in stitches, and although I didn’t want to laugh during the show I was aware what we were doing was incredibly funny.  I can also, as evidence myself, say that the whole thing is genuine.  Adding to that evidence is that some sections didn’t seem quite as effective as other parts and, as a participant, I could feel my hypnotic state weakening and strengthening at different points of the show.  When leaving the venue I could hear so many comments saying how much fun the audience had, and it was ego-swelling to have people come up to tell me how funny I had been.

I’m sure Warner said that the most intelligent, creative and witty people are more susceptible to hypnosis and I’m pretty sure that’s true given that fellow reviewer and I remained on stage until the end of the show.  One slightly worrying repercussion is that we also got married on stage… and that my name is now Susan.

David McNeil