Hyprov: Improv Under Hypnosis

Assembly George Square Theatre

From 03 August 2016 to 28 August 2016

Rating: ***

Review by David Chadderton

It's bound to be a disappointment when you are in the queue for a show and you see the name of the star attraction being pasted over, even though his face still takes up a quarter of the huge poster.

Veteran Canadian improviser Colin Mochrie, to shake up his act, has joined up with a stage hypnotist to create improvisers from members of the audience, who will believe completely in the situations given and will not respond as predictably as other professional improvisers.

Mochrie's replacement is the great Mike McShane, a superb improviser but here visibly nervous on his first ever performance with hypnotist Asad Mecci´╗┐, an imposing cross between an American sports coach and an auctioneer—if he told me to sleep, I'd sleep.

It begins as any other stage hypnotist show, with 20 volunteers gradually being whittled down to 4 who have genuinely been hypnotised. Then the improviser takes over, instructing the hypnotist on the situation to give to the subjects then creating scenes like in other impro shows.

But it isn't like any other impro show; the fact that these are members of the audience adds a significant twist and great pleasure at the amazing performances that they produce. Perhaps it helps that we are on the Fringe—when they were asked which of them had singing experience, all 4, slumped in their chairs, raised their hands.

While some of the hypnotism set-up is a bit dull, albeit necessary, the show itself is very entertaining, although no doubt it depends, like all impro shows, on how well the situations work with the subjects chosen.

While the Fringe brochure does put in brackets "Colin Mochrie and more TBC", it's a bit naughty to drop a major star of the impro scene and no doubt a huge draw to some ticket buyers without making clear when he was planning to disappear back to Canada, especially as his face dominates posters all over Edinburgh.

But Mike McShane is never disappointing, and, once he got into the swing of things during his inaugural show, he was clearly having a great time and was as amazed at the results as anyone in the audience.