The Marvellous Mechanical Mesmerist

The title looked like something from a Victorian sideshow. P.T. Barnum himself would not be out of place at a show billed as a steampunk driven comedy play with hypnotised people. Produced by Diversity Theatre Company and members of the Academy of Hypnotic Arts as HypnoArts, I expected quite a spectacle from thisArts Council England supported show. Add to this the attraction of a TV personality in the form of Paul Henshall from I’m With Stupid and Holby City and I did expect to fight for a ticket.

On other nights audience interaction may have been greater, but with a well rehearsed script I did expect more laughs and more hypnotic suggestions.

Well there was no need to queue, and I did wonder if there would be enough in the audience to participate in the stage hypnotism as promised on the billing. In the end there were three brave souls suitable for hypnosis after a collective test to judge suitability. Henshall was joined onstage by Anna Scutt and writer/director Jonathan Chase, and all three practised their craft after a preamble to set the scene. In keeping with the era the fantasy scenario suggested a rocket to the moon for the participants and included an alien encounter while under the influence.

I checked the flyer again for the description and read about a ‘fast, funny, fantastical empowering entertainment’ but it was rarely any of the above. I do accept on other nights audience interaction may have been greater, but with a well rehearsed script I did expect more laughs and more hypnotic suggestions. The hypnosis setup took far too long while the audience members were only mildly amused and rarely entertained. The hypnotists do have stage skills, but for me this format is far from ideal.

Reviews by John Murray

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★★★★

Performances

Location

The Blurb

The Marvellous Mechanical Mesmerist Actors with disabilities world premiere a new hilarious play with hypnotised people - it could be you! Paul Henshall, BBC’s Holby City and I’m With Stupid, a trained hypnotist, plays a Victorian wide-boy intent on making as much money as possible with as little effort as necessary. Anna Scutt plays his wife, and ‘Executive Partner’. Written by award-winning Stage Hypnotist Jonathan Chase, the remaining ‘cast’ are invited from suitably hypnotisable audience volunteers. Street hypnosis ‘auditions’ take place prior to the show at the Symposium Hall. Steampunk costume, not compulsory, could win prizes.