Comedy Festival 2008, The Classic; BATS Theatre
April 24 26; 29-May 3 | Reviewed by Campbell Stewart

I’D NEVER see a hypnosis show and even the thought of a faux-hypno show didn’t do much for me by way of anticipation. However, Hypnotastic won me over in the opening scene. They seemed to have the rest of the audience on side even before that and there was a feeling that the cast could do no wrong. It was a very clever and well put together piece of theatre that intertwined various difficult theatrical disciplines effortlessly and with much hilarity.

The story (by Dean Hewison and Ben Powdrell) was brimming with creativity: Host Cohen Holloway can’t do hypnosis but has the mysterious ability to send people’s subconscious minds to Hypnosia, where they live out and battle against their deepest fantasies. Ruling Hypnosia is the far-out freaky goblin king Jareth (Rowan Bettjeman) who is oh so lonely and tempts Cohen’s ‘hypnotees’ to stay by offering them a bite of his peach.

Being set in the subconscious gave the play plenty of room to do whatever it wanted and the talented writers and cast fully embraced that opportunity. While it was clear the show was not to be taken too seriously, the cast could be. Their portrayals were convincing and easy to watch and even as they delved into the craziest places of ‘the mind’ they remained relaxed and natural in their performances. Equally impressive was their ability to burst into (pleasantly tuneful) song at opportune moments, and the songs were the kind of genius you desperately try to remember to impress your friends with later.

The good story and excellent acting were only added to by the seamless combination of puppetry, music and song, dance and mime, and brilliant costuming and props, all of which provided the audience with continuous surprises and revelations of pop-culture. The puppeteers (the cast taking turns when not on as their characters) were a show in themselves throughout. With precision and ease they created a working model of a woman’s nether region using just a mass of hands and arms and some good lighting. Various fight scenes were also brought to life by the prop wielding shadows. The sound operator, Morgan Samuel did a superb job as he and those on stage worked in perfect accord.

The story progressed well and kept the audience delighted as new twists unravelled. The final showdown included a brilliant two part song Hypnosia that rivalled the Les Misérables epic Confrontation. The endless comedy eventually proved too much for Cohen and Rowan on stage and they couldn’t help chuckling at their own predicament. The audience didn’t mind. It was the kind of show where the cast were allowed to have as much fun as the audience.

It’s not your traditional piece of theatre. It sounds crazy, it is crazy, but there is so much to enjoy. If I were you I wouldn’t miss it.