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The Hypnotist


Pleasance Theatre

The Hypnotist

The Hypnotist

Pleasance Theatre

Reviewed – 12th October 2019



“there are so many loose ends to tie up at the end, that the resulting denouement seems a bit laboured”


Ecuador is the location for G.M.C (Gerard) Lewis’ contribution to the 2019 London Horror Festival at the Pleasance Theatre in Islington, and The Hypnotist adds a nicely warm and tropical feel to counter wet and chilly October days. Produced by the Monkey’s Fist Theatre Company, this tale of an innocent young ecotourist meeting ancient evil in the jungle has the elements to make a satisfying contribution to a Fright Fest. Does it succeed in chilling the blood of the audience as the story proceeds? Not entirely, and it has nothing to do with temperature. The chief problem is that The Hypnotist is overladen with detail and too many story lines. The plot struggles to integrate Laura the herpetologist, Garrett the aforesaid ecotourist, Sandy the anthropologist and the late introduction of an Irishman named Daragh, plus lots of references to Quito, the capital of Ecuador, and mysterious disappearances of rich inhabitants there. Add to that Laura’s snakes, and an overload of information about ancient peoples whose rituals and pharmacopeia have been appropriated by Sandy for her anthropological studies. But there is never a satisfying explanation for why the practice of western hypnotism is combined with non-western shamanistic rituals. Otherwise, this wealth of material does come together during the course of the play, but there are so many loose ends to tie up at the end, that the resulting denouement seems a bit laboured.

The actors do their best with The Hypnotist, and they are an engaging group of performers. Lauren Barnes as Laura is an intense and detail driven scientist, and the naive and far too trusting Garrett, played by Nic James, is drawn to her and her snake charming ways right from the start. Sandy, played by Maria Pearson, commands the stage when she is on it. Colin Hubbard as Daragh has the least to do in this four hander, but he handles the role of the “heavy” with just the right amount of creepy can-do.

The biggest weakness of this production is the staging. Despite an elaborate set with lots of tropical plants, tents and the paraphernalia of camping, The Hypnotist is a drama about states of mind, and all this naturalistic detail just gets in the way. Some of the essential details mentioned in the script—such as the continual repetition of a hammock “as your safe place”—become distractions as you search about the set for a hammock without seeing one. The snakes are disappointingly small when finally revealed. Andrea Hazel Lewis, who directs, has to guide her actors through this mass of detail, where perhaps a more uncluttered set (and script), and more reliance on lighting and sound effects could have set the scene just as effectively. Eddie Mann’s music and sound effects are certainly up to the task.

Fans of horror movies like The Serpent and the Rainbow will probably appreciate this tale of ancient wisdom being misappropriated for modern purposes. However, audiences who prefer more uncluttered trips to landscapes of terror may find The Hypnotist a less satisfying excursion.


Reviewed by Dominica Plummer


The Hypnotist

Pleasance Theatre as part of London Horror Festival 2019


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Night Of The Living Dead Live | ★★★ | April 2019
Don’t Look Away | ★★★½ | May 2019
Regen | ★★★ | May 2019
The Millennials | ★★½ | May 2019
Kill Climate Deniers | ★★★★ | June 2019
It’ll Be Alt-Right On The Night | ★★★★ | September 2019
Midlife Cowboy | ★★★ | September 2019
The Accident Did Not Take Place | ★★ | October 2019
The Fetch Wilson | ★★★★ | October 2019


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Reading Gaol – 3.5 Stars


Reading Gaol

Theatre N16

Reviewed – 25th July 2018


“the work could do with more contrast and development to illustrate the various parts of the original text and to expound the ideas it inspires”


From their new home in Tottenham Hale, Theatre N16’s collaboration with Styx art space provides a challenging yet creative location for its programmes. Behind a trendy outside bar area, the shows are staged in the bleak warehouse of an old brewery, allowing plenty of scope for invention. Proforca’s director, David Brady, cleverly uses this stark setting to bring out the darkness and pathos in Oscar Wilde’s ballad, ‘Reading Gaol’, written in reaction to his time in prison. Free but disgraced, his last work is not only in protest at the Victorian penal system but also an exploration of the paradoxes of morality as he describes the execution of one and the collective feelings of the other inmates. In this production, an updated version, new writing has been incorporated to expand on the ideas of freedom, oppression and conflict.

Beams of light, smoke and sounds effects combine to create an atmosphere of desolation. A scarlet jacket on a red chair is the only focus of colour. Five actors recite the ballad, pacing like prisoners to its plodding meter. At intervals, each in turn offers a character to illustrate the vulnerability of human nature and its consequences. Breaking up the poem with fresh material is effective considering that the rich, detailed language is hard to assimilate in one sitting, some lines being thrown away due to a lack of clarity and expression. However, at almost two hours running time the work could do with more contrast and development to illustrate the various parts of the original text and to expound the ideas it inspires.

The three central stories make the most impact. ‘Human’ uses imaginative, dramatic lighting effects with handheld lamps and a strong performance by Nic James to take us to the jungles of Africa. Interestingly offbeat in its rhythm, ‘Guardian’ sees Malcolm Jeffries anxiously fighting his isolation and in a soulful tale, ‘Innocent’ tells of a country lad, touchingly played by Miles Parker, in prison for his naivety. But it is the first and last parts which require stronger personality to give the play its overall shape. James Vincent underplays the disturbing quality of the cold-blooded ‘Monster’ and the writing of ‘Hero’ (Nick Cope) fails to convincingly finalise the play with its meandering thoughts.

Even though it could do with a spot of further remodelling, it has the novelty of mixing classical and contemporary narrative and a great sense of live performance from the moment we enter the building. The technical aspects are innovative and slick and the actors work well together and individually, and all in a venue which will be a discovery for most.


Reviewed by Joanna Hetherington

Photography courtesy Proforça Theatre Company


Reading Gaol

Theatre N16 until 3rd August


Also by  Proforça Theatre Company
Feel | ★★★★★ | Lion & Unicorn Theatre | March 2018
Feel / More | ★★★★ | Lion & Unicorn Theatre | March 2018


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