Through the keyhole into the hypnotist’s boudoir...
I’m running out of things to do at home during this semi-lockdown. I’m down to my very last box of pre-computer files.
By which I mean documents made of paper. Remember those? Yellowing and dog-eared they may be but at least they don’t suddenly float off into the ether when some obscure button is touched by my sausage fingers. The only way these babies can be deleted is by fire, flood or burglary!
I’m in a really cobwebby region labelled 1988. I was directing a street theatre project at the World Expo in Brisbane, training actual Australian performers to get up to the terribly British antics of the Natural Theatre Company. And jolly good at it they were too!
You couldn’t tell the Oz nannies in their crisp uniforms from the real thing and their bowler-hatted businessmen would pass unremarked at Waterloo Station circa 1953.
Anyway, I found a little note which reminded me about our rather snazzy dressing room adjacent to the main arena. From there we had a bird’s-eye view of the spectacular international events taking place therein, from Maori hakas to synchronised American majorettes.
One week the main attraction was a hypnotist, which we thought rather lowered the tone. His impressive results, however, had the huge crowds baying for more.
At the click of his fingers he could get selected individuals to run around like chickens or sit on a lady’s lap and cry like a baby and countless other seemingly involuntary embarrassing acts.
After watching the show twice daily for several days in a row we became convinced he was using a series of stooges. We decided to do a Famous Five and one evening we dispatched the actors to follow each of the hypnotist’s victims and report back.
Over the next few hours, the actors drifted back in to report that rather boringly all their unsuspecting quarries had done nothing but purchase a few refreshments, watch the fireworks and generally mooch about before heading for the exit.
Just before closing, however, with just the two of us remaining in our dressing room, we heard a click at the end of the corridor as the fire exit slowly opened and two shadowy figures slipped into the hypnotist’s boudoir.
My colleague, who was somewhat braver than I, sprinted along the passage and to my horror placed her eye against the large keyhole in the dressing room door. This was of course a sackable offence, but luckily there was no CCTV coverage in the immediate area.
Rushing back, she reported that the visitors were indeed the two gents who had started off that evening’s show with a particularly enthusiastic rendition of The Birdie Song with all its actions. Furthermore, money was changing hands.
In the end we decided that the act was genuine. The guy was a brilliant practitioner, but he obviously needed a couple of stooges to get the audience going.
We had many Expo adventures. Once we almost got murdered by a Papua New Guinea mud warrior. But that’s another story!