Newton shows the secret of hypnosis
“HYPNOSIS from the 1960s to 1980s was mainly all about getting someone to run around like a chicken. I hope we’ve gone beyond that,” says hypnotist Andrew Newton. “I know I have.”
For the past three decades or so, the UK hypnotist has entertained around the world – never short of a willing volunteer or audience in the mood for a good a time. After a long absence he has returned to the city and will appear at the 3 Arts Theatre in Plumstead until October 16.
Newton says his interest in hypnosis was sparked during a psychology course. “Hypnosis was only one hour of the course, but it tied in with everything we had already learnt. It was only when I started fooling around with it that I realised it could be a money-spinner.”
He went on to become popular in the UK in the 1980s and 1990s with frequent performances around the country as well as television appearances. “But in 2005 I fancied a change of direction. I stopped doing the shows and kind of went back to college. I wanted to learn more about the therapeutic uses of hypnotism,” he explains.
While many hypnotherapists are proficient in the therapy side of their practice, Newton discovered they were eager to learn how he gets his subjects under so quickly. Rapid induction, the technique he has perfected, is proving a valuable asset for many professionals.
“Most of the people I teach are those needing another tool in the psychological therapy box. They want to learn so that they can help other people with their problems. It’s more straightforward than what you need on stage. Which can be the lion’s den. It’s easier doing it one on one. A lot of people who go on stage fail. It’s harsh out there.”
Newton also presents lectures at universities around the UK, specifically aimed at psychology students. But he hasn’t turned his back on the stage completely, and after this run will head for New Zealand.
“I haven’t performed here for a long time,” he says. “So there is a whole new audience.”
He adds that with the technological advances he finds young audience members often take video clips of his shows and share them with friends – growing his audiences even further. He begins his performances with three psychological experiments with the audience. “They are not just for laughs, but they are informative and help set the scene.”
He’s an encyclopaedia of one-liners. “I can’t help myself. It’s all in the timing and appropriate use of them.” That quirky, dry sense of humour strikes a chord with some, while others find a bit too weird. But that doesn’t seems to bother the hypnotist, who clearly loves every aspect of his job.
“What I was doing in the 1980s was outrageous – in the 1980s. So I’ve had to chuck out anything past its sell-by date…” He stops mid-sentence as he remembers that he still has to find a plastic rose and a laser pointer, but he won’t let slip what for.
One of his more controversial routines involves a camp Adolf Hitler – shocking, but surprisingly well-received, he says. He once left it off the bill at a Jewish fundraiser, feeling it would be in bad taste, only to have the organisers tell him one of the main reasons they booked him was that they wanted to see it.
When presenting a show he tries to stick to a format. “But I also have to be flexible. Sometimes I don’t have the right crowd on stage for a routine, but the next night will be different.”
While most of Newton’s shows are child-friendly, he has included several adults-only performances in this run. “The routines are a little bit different,” he explains, adding that while they are only suitable for adults, they are not crude. “I may play the part of an absolute rogue, but I always know just how far I can go,” he says, adding that many modern hypnotists, however, lean a little too far to the tame side of things.
While he admits that some people will leave their comfort zones while under hypnosis and do things not normally in their nature “it would be very difficult to get someone to do something against their morals and values”. Besides, he adds, they may have a six-foot-something boyfriend watching from the audience, “and I don’t want to really offend the audience, because I want them to come back”.
What of those cynical audience members who are adamant they can’t be hypnotised? “The important thing is not to make the mistake of acknowledging their existence,” he says with a shrug and a smile. “Just ignore them and they’ll go away. They’re like wasps around your coffee. Eventually they’ll get fed up and go away.”
Newton explains that psychology is the study not of the mind but of behaviour.
“I use the English language to modify that behaviour. “People think you get zapped out by a demonic puppet master. I don’t mind playing the part, but that’s not really how it works. It’s a lot of very subtle use of language. Getting people into the right frame of mind.
“The big secret about hypnotism is that there is no secret. It’s like playing the piano. There’s no secret – just a lot of practice. And a piano.”
Tickets are R60 to R70. Call Computicket at 083 915 8000.
GETTING SLEEPY: Take a trip into the hilarious world of UK hypnotist Andrew Newton at the 3 Arts Theatre.