Review: Hypnosis @ Lichfield Garrick

By a weird fluke of programming this week seems to be David Tristram week at the Garrick. First we had Doreen – The Movie, a truly brilliant warts-and-all portrait on an epic scale of Britain’s foremost scrounger packed with a galaxy of beautifully observed character portraits in the Main House, and now Hypnosis, a miniature masterpiece of a whodunnit in the Studio. Is he soon to be made Freeman of the City?

Well, on this showing he richly deserves to become our adopted son, because Hypnosis is a text-book whodunnit that keeps the audience guessing right up until the very end. It’s a perfect vehicle for the Lichfield Players’ combined talents of acting, design and stagecraft, here working seamlessly together to present this taut thriller that has delicious moments of humour, using some of the company’s most assured performers to bring its ingenious plot to life.

Phil Shaw brought all his wealth of stage experience to the role of Gordo, a down-on-his-luck stage hypnotist with a taste for ladies, larceny and hard liquor. Ian Davies inserted a neatly ambiguous quality into the role of Alan Briggs, a policeman who invites Gordo to use hypnotherapy to help his wife Helen to lose weight.

But Helen, played here by Rachel Slade with sexy panache, although ostensibly a simple young thing blossoms seductively into a high-stakes player as the plot metamorphoses into an endgame in which it’s hard to tell just who is fooling who.

Director Maureen George marshals her players with authority and never misses a theatrical trick in this clever production of a comedy thriller that’s a heady mix of sex, stage-magic and money.

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