Newton shows the se­cret of hyp­no­sis

Cape Times - - Arts - Terri Dun­bar-Cur­ran

“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.

Pic­ture: IAN LANDS­BERG

GET­TING SLEEPY: Take a trip into the hi­lar­i­ous world of UK hyp­no­tist An­drew Newton at the 3 Arts The­atre.

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