Having read reviews of hypnotist Ian Dee’s previous show in St Andrews, I went in to his Refreshers Week performance anticipating something fun. The reviews were all very complimentary, and I love hypnotism, so what could go wrong? Apparently, way too much.
Mr. Dee specified in his intro that people with ‘mental disorders’ could not be hypnotised. This struck me as bizarre for many reasons. To start off, I am something of a connoisseur of hypnotism shows; I’ve wasted a lot of money on events like this and have seen everything from the fantastic to the horrible. But not once before have I heard this caveat. In fact, hypnosis is used in professional settings to help people with various mental disorders. To claim that somehow they are ‘immune’ is, quite frankly, rubbish, and most likely done for legal reasons.
Mr. Dee proceeded to play the ‘mental disorders’ comment as a joke, then stating that he also could not hypnotise alcoholics and continuing on by suggesting that ‘no one raised their hand about having mental disorders, but I’m sure some of you are alcoholics’. Mental health is not, contrary to Mr. Dee’s belief, a joke. And while this may be a petty issue, just because you’re an alcoholic, doesn’t mean you’re perpetually drunk, and just because you’re currently drunk doesn’t make you an alcoholic.
Though Mr. Dee succeeded in annoying me from the start, he unfortunately did not seem particularly effective at hypnotising his subjects either. Several people left the stage, unwilling to pretend to be under when they were not. Of the people who stayed, not many of them were hypnotised. One comment I overheard in the bar afterwards from a participant was that it was ‘weird improv’. A friend of mine who went on the stage was legitimately distressed that she had remembered the material, thinking something was wrong with her.
In terms of actual content, Mr. Dee presented pretty standard material: ‘hypnotising yourself with a finger gun’, ‘forgetting a number’, ‘forgetting your name’, etc. To be fair, it is pretty impossible to go wrong with these things because everyone loves watching their friends make fools of themselves. However, when he diverted from the usual tricks he became almost sordid. He had said in the beginning that the show would be family friendly. To be honest, he didn’t need to do that; we were all adults, we could handle some risqué material. But because he claimed this, people in both the audience and, more importantly, those who went up to participate, expected something tame. This made it particularly uncomfortable when he had people ‘hypnotised’ into miming a sexual act. He explained that it was ‘milking a cow’, but we were all aware of what was happening.
From the off-putting sleaze to the undeniable lack of skill in terms of actual hypnosis —not to mention the distractingly loud music— Ian Dee was an utter disappointment. I don’t know if there are any plans to bring him back to St Andrews for future events, but I personally beg the Students’ Association: find someone else! There are great hypnotists out there, but this man just isn’t one of them.