Ahead of its running at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival, University of Nottingham 2015 Medics Graduate Aaron Calvert returned to UoN to perform a preview of his show DecisionsImpact Arts set out to review the hypnotic psychological show…

The thing about these kind of shows – magic, mentalist, illusionist – is that if you go in feeling sceptical, you’re not likely to enjoy them. This somewhat cynical reviewer entered the show objectively, ready to be amazed, in the hopes of writing the fairest review possible.

“The performance was well-executed, but something we’ve all seen before”

And at the start, the show truly was amazing. Calvert opened with somewhat safe tricks involving apparently sealed envelopes which were impressive and, together with his great energy and natural humour, really got the audience all raved up. The performance was well-executed, but something we’ve all seen before, and so it was a relief when he moved onto something original – a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors which involved the whole audience, in which Calvert was explaining the psychology behind the game to reveal how he ‘beat’ so many audience members (a third, unsurprisingly).

He then moved this onto a ‘game’ of Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock, where he would guess what symbol, drawn onto hidden cards, the audience member chose, a genuine highlight of the show, if just a variation and combination of the two previous tricks. This was only exceeded in quality by a simple mind-reading trick combining Hangman and 20 Questions, though, unfortunately, the show went downhill from here.

“I began to feel that this might be the real thing”

Calvert proceeded to try to hypnotise the entire audience and I must admit, though I am conscious of aspects of social psychology (namely conformity) which lead to hypnosis being possible, I began to feel that this might be the real thing. However, when theory behind illusions are known, it is always the delivery, and not the effect, that is important, and Calvert, clearly a natural performer, had a great delivery. Before Calvert cut off the whole-audience hypnosis prematurely to focus on three audience members (in a lengthy section which was wholly interesting, if not entirely convincing), this reviewer began to see how a further state of hypnosis might be induced, though this felt more like a YouTube video of guided meditation than anything else.

“The audience seemed wowed throughout”

Shows are best judged by how the audience feels when they leave, and after a satisfactory, though entirely predictable ending, I felt that although I would have liked to see more, I realised this conclusion was based entirely on the show’s first twenty minutes, and sustained due to the anticipation that it might just pick up again. Having said that, the audience seemed wowed throughout, and there are undeniably some moments that shine throughout Decisions. Whole-audience hypnosis is definitely something I believe everyone should experience, believer or non-believer, and while I highly recommend those visiting Edinburgh Fringe Festival to check out Aaron Calvert, he has some work to do if he ever hopes to leave whole crowds stunned, and the unbelievers truly converted.


Matteo Everett

Image courtesy of the Nottingham New Theatre

‘Aaron Calvert: Mind Games’ will be appearing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival from Saturday 6th August until Sunday 28th August. For more information and to book tickets, see here.

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