He will be showing his skills in the Arundel Jailhouse on Saturday, August 29 (doors 8pm; tickets £9 for members and £10 for non-members).
“The way the act works is very, very simple,” Alistair explains. “I introduce myself and I ask for volunteers from the audience that want to come up to be hypnotised. I then hypnotise them on stage in front of everyone.
“Some hypnotists don’t do it in front of the audience. They take people back stage. The reason they do that is that it can take ten to 15 minutes to get people put to sleep. They go off stage while somebody else does something. But against that, the audience are then thinking ‘Well, are they really hypnotised then or did he just bung them £20 to go along with it?’
“I actually do it in front of the audience so that people can see the process, and then once they are asleep, I start giving them stupid suggestions.”
But the point is that it is all very carefully and strongly regulated: “There is something called the Hypnotism Act that was set up by the government in 1952, and the hypnotist has got to abide by that. It means that you must not do anything that would humiliate or degrade people or put them in any danger or at any risk. There is a fine line between what is legal and what is not legal, but as far as it goes, as long as the person is not humiliated, then it is legal.
“Before I start hypnotising people, I have to come out with a statement that I must include that anyone that is pregnant or under the influence of drink or drugs or has any mental condition is not to volunteer. This is a legal statement. It is not that the hypnotism would make their situation any worse. It is to make sure you are not putting anyone in a dangerous situation that might be a problem.”
And even then, you have to be careful. As Alistair points out, you have to be very cautious about the way you word things.
“I sometimes go and see other hypnotists, just like comedians would go to see other comedians, just to get a few ideas maybe, to see how other things might work. I went to see this one person and he had these people up on stage, and he said ‘I want you to imagine you are five.’ And this one bloke on stage started absolutely freaking out. The hypnotist couldn’t seem to control him.
“I said to the hypnotist ‘I am a hypnotist too. Do you want me to look after him and calm him down while you carry on?’ He said yes, so I sat him down and made sure he was OK, and during the conversation I found out why he was freaking out. I said to the hypnotist ‘You have really really got to start thinking about what you are saying!’ He said ‘What do you mean?’ I said ‘During our conversation, I found out that between the ages of four and seven he was sexually abused, and you took him straight back to that time!’
“The way I would word it is ‘I want everyone to imagine they are back at school and that they are five-year-olds.’ I wouldn’t say ‘I want you to go back to when you were five. You have got to make it much more general than that.”
Visit the Jailhouse website to find out more.
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