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Tomas McCabe: The Mind Reading Experiments | Review

Tomas McCabe: The Mind Reading ExperimentsThe Mind Reading Experiments is going to the Edinburgh Fringe 2019, where I think it will work reasonably well. This hypothesis is partly based on a show I saw at Fringe 2018, called The Extinction Event, which included in its slightly bizarre storyline many of the elements included here, such as card tricks, audience interaction and various tricks of the mind. The key differences with that production and this one is that Tomas McCabe accomplishes more in an hour in a solo show than the other one did with two performers, and pretty much everything here is interconnected in a way that doesn’t leave one thinking, “What was that about? Why was that in the show?

McCabe’s interests in the workings of the mind quite naturally spill over into giving some of the details away as to how various ‘tricks’ are accomplished. Some are more obvious than others – a quick Google search, ‘how to tell if someone is lying’ confirms McCabe’s conclusions: body cues, facial cues, tone of voice, content of speech, body language and so on. But not everything is given away: I am left none the wiser as to how it is that a fellow audience member can be sat on stage thinking of a symbol without having said what it is, and yet McCabe correctly guesses it.

There are also some stories about the Creery Sisters, five siblings in Derbyshire. Believed to have some form of paranormal abilities, they were tested in the 1880s by Sir William Barrett (1844-1925), who went on to have some involvement with the establishment of the Society of Psychical Research.

The details of Barrett’s experiments are freely available elsewhere online. McCabe’s enthusiasm for mind reading is palpable throughout, irrespective of (for instance) whether background details are being given or a trick using cards is in progress.

Some interesting points are made in the later stages of the show about how (some) people’s minds are being manipulated by the sheer ubiquity of modern technology, including but not limited to mobile telephony and social media. I thought this could have been explored a little more – it is, frankly, more topical and relevant than whatever the Creerys may or may not have accomplished in the reign of Queen Victoria.

McCabe had a good rapport with the audience, establishing from the outset that there were ‘no stooges’ involved. Participation indeed involved a wide cross-section of the audience, with McCabe doing that ‘boy, girl, boy, girl’ thing, selecting a woman for his next set-up if the previous volunteer was a man, and vice versa. There needed to be, I think, a more even distribution when it comes to telling the audience how certain ‘tricks’ are made possible – as it stands, it’s rather ‘top-heavy’, in terms of revelations, leaving the last quarter of the show bereft of any disclosures about the mechanics of what has taken place.

I couldn’t help chortling at one exchange with an audience member, invited to think of a number within a certain range. “Do you want me to say it out loud?” came the response. Even those who consider themselves mind readers have limitations! Anyway, the show makes good use of video projections, and at one point a live camera feed (to give the whole audience a decent viewing angle of a card trick). With a little refinement, the production could be something quite spectacular – and it isn’t half bad as it is.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Full of audience participation, Tomas demonstrated live how he can control the decisions we make, how he learnt to detect lies from prisoners and how strong our intuition is through a dangerous game of Russian Roulette! Audiences laughed out loud and gasped with amazement all the way to the jaw-dropping finale!

https://www.tomasmccabe.com/

26th May 2019
The Bread and Roses Theatre
68 Clapham Manor St, London SW4 6DZ

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