Review by Peter McGarry

Peter McGarry is an experienced, independent professional theatre critic who has agreed to review Talisman Theatre productions.
Peter is free to express his opinions for good or ill. The Talisman Theatre has no control whatsoever over the content of these reviews and will not comment publicly on what he writes.

Hypnosis (2014):
Here is a comedy thriller which can never quite make up its mind whether to go for the comedy or the thrills. Unfortunately, it isn't very funny and it totally lacks tension.

This is quite a pity because the degree of quality it does achieve is all packed into the first ten minutes. At this point, the audience shares a stage hypnotism act which starts the ball rolling with plenty of promise. It enables Graham Underhill as the somewhat seedy hypnotist and John Francis as his bewildered victim to indulge some splendid moments of theatrical knockabout and raises our hopes of a spirited evening's entertainment.

But from then on, writer David Tristram tries to twist and turn his tale around every type of cliche associated with the genre. There is a constantly shifting balance of power between the characters, a threatening pistol is produced every few minutes, we try to unscramble baffling talk about a pizza and a bank robbery and a million-pound pay-off, and keep up with cartwheeling relationships with the woman of the piece, played with a one-dimensional lack of subtlety by Kathy Crawshaw.

Director Phil Quinn clearly recognises that this is no art piece and opts for a suitably racy pace interspersed with rather tiresome bursts of music. It's a shame that the hypnotist and the victim who becomes his subsequent nemesis don't have better material as the play progresses to enable the actors to build on the original promise of their characters instead of being reduced to mere ciphers of convoluted plotting.

There is a distinct art to making this kind of material work. One has only to look back at plays like Ira Levin's Deathtrap and Anthony Shaffer's Sleuth to see how small-cast thrillers can really grip.

At best, opening scene apart, this entertains at a strictly superficial level.



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