Hypnolicious! A Comedy Hypnosis Treat. Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre. May 19-20, 8pm. theq.net.au.
Matt Hale is a hypnotist, but not of the pseudo-mystical "Watch the swinging watch" school. In his show Hypnolicious!, which he calls "a really fun comedy hypnosis show", he aims to debunk some of the myths surrounding hypnotism while also providing an enjoyable and family-friendly experience.
The aim, he says, is to demonstrate both to the onstage volunteers and those in the audience how and why hypnotism works and to have fun doing so while avoiding cliches - nobody will be clucking like a chicken - and X-rated humiliation - nobody will be stripping naked. Instead, Hale says, he tries to do things that are fun, using the power of suggestion to unlock hidden talents and desires and make people watching wish they could be taking part rather than be glad they weren't.
"I give people some Star Wars powers," he says by way of tantalising example, "skills they never knew they had."
Unlike some hypnotists who try to cultivate an air of mystique, Hale is happy to talk about his craft, content to let the results of his shows - both funny and mysterious - speak for themselves. He says he has never used "planted" or prepared volunteers: everyone is from the audience at each show,so every performance is different. Nor has he ever had anyone fake being hypnotised that he is aware of, although he does say not everyone can be hypnotised, especially in the short time available in a stage performance. Some people respond to different techniques and not others but given the demands of the show he needs people who will "go under" fairly quickly. And, of course, they must be willing in the first place.
"You've got to want to want to be hypnotised."
People are not asleep when hypnotised but their consciousness is altered temporarily so they are focused on the hypnotist's words and susceptible to suggestion - although, Hale says, they can't be hypnotised into doing anything they really don't want to do.
Hale was born in Britain but for the last 20 years has been based in Perth. He took part in a hypnotism show when he was 21 and says, "I was given a false explanation I didn't believe" which compelled him to delve further into the subject. He trained in Britain and the US and has gone on to teach hypnosis himself: as well as his award-winning international comedy career, he has also released his own range of hypnosis products and works in the therapeutic side of hypnosis too. He conducts group seminars on a variety of subjects including memory, stress busting, motivation, weight management, and smoking cessation.
But for now he is touring with Hypnolicious! and seems keen to ensure that the show is always seen as suitable for all ages and not intimidating to potential volunteers, of whom he takes between 15 and 30 at every show. Not that there seems to be any shortage of people willing to go under - "There's always a rush" - but given his format he's more than usually mindful of the need to keep them on side.
"Without people, I don't have a show."