The improvised hypnotised musical movie! Half the cast of the latest Hollywood blockbuster haven’t arrived on set and with just one hour left to wrap the movie… what will the hypnotic director do? Simple, throw away the script and start again! Whose Mind Is It Anyway? is in Edinburgh at the Gilded Balloon for the month of August, and The Fountain caught up with Simon Warner about this plans for the show.

TF: You are performing at the Edinburgh Fringe this year, how excited are you?  

We couldn’t be more excited! We’ve got a brand new show format that has been in research and development non-stop over the past 4 months. We have an all-star cast of improvisers from some of the biggest and most respected improv shows around including Austentatious and Showstopper, The Improvised Musical, a talented Musical Supervisor and of course a new crew of hypnotised audience volunteers for every show. We’re bringing the worlds of hypnosis and improvisation together in the most dynamic, musical and spell-binding way possible! It’s brand new and it works wonderfully… and we can’t wait to bring it to the Fringe.

TF: Whose Mind Is It Anyway? certainly sounds intriguing, very different to the other WLIIA as we know it? 

Yes, this show is VERY different. We definitely share world-class improv talent in common, it’s seriously fun and you’ll laugh a lot…but that’s where the similarities end. This show is something entirely new and very different. Whose Mind is a long-form, narrative, musical improv show, built from, around and staring hypnotised volunteers every single evening. Every show will see our world-class improvisers join forces with hypnotised members of the audience to create an entirely new musical movie, that aims to make our volunteers become absolute superstars, look incredible and to give them the time of their life – all using the power of hypnosis to unlock their creativity, banish their inhibitions and turn off the bit of their brain that says ‘I can’t’ – allowing them to become a star on stage.

TF: What drove the project, where did your influences lie? 

This show started with a conversation in ‘Cheesecake Factory’ in Honolulu. (Seriously!) It’s been in development for a long time, from a small conception of an idea, to bringing together the right people (our incredible cast!) in the right place at the right time. Improv is flourishing and London has so many inspiring shows and performers that are taking improv to the next level – pushing boundaries with formats, developing new talent from a grass-root level and allowing it to flourish within mainstream theatre. It’s an exciting world to be working in and we are so lucky to have some of the best talent on the circuit in our Whose Mind cast.

Also, stage hypnosis is due a renaissance. The days of embarrassment comedy have been and gone. After successfully running hypnosis shows all over the world from the West End, to Las Vegas and pushing boundaries with production value and the use of music. We felt it was now time to really shake up the medium by revoluntionsing both how stage hypnosis is seen AND, more importantly, how it is used to engage with volunteers on stage. Why embarrass volunteers when you can make them feel amazingly confident? Why get them to do demeaning things? When you can make them do things they will be proud of (and never thought they could do!) Whose Mind is trying to obliterate the preconceptions of ‘dodgy’ stage hypnosis and instead revolutionising stage hypnosis as an entertainment tool to unlock volunteer’s creativity, eradicate their inhibitions and free them up to become absolute superstars on stage.

Improv and hypnosis have a very natural connection – using the same bit of our brain to allow us as humans to be responsive, not to monitor ourselves and for our minds to be creative and open. The only difference is improvisers train their brains to do this on a daily basis. Hypnosis kind of allows a once-in-a-lifetime chance to do that with ‘ordinary’ volunteers. Kind of ‘fast-tracking’ your mind to that state. Meaning that people who may have never stepped foot on a stage before will be singing, dancing and acting with some of the biggest and best comedic improvisers in the UK, making it all up on the spot, no preparation required, all improvised, in the moment…All thanks to hypnosis and the power it has to unlock the responsive, reactive, instinctive, creative part of our brains that until now only top improvisers have been able to train to utilise on command.

Also, music is incredibly evocative to hypnotised volunteers and can be used to easily evoke emotional states, stoke their imaginations and make them feel like they are really in the places our improvisers are creating. And we have two of the most talented improv Musical Directors on the planet on board to facilitate this. It was a natural coming together of a team of creative mediums that really complement, support and encourgae each other. And hence Whose Mind Is It Anyway? The Improvised HYPNOTISED Musical Movie was born.

TF: What are your plans for the Fringe, having been before are there any tips or musts you would offer to first-time performers?/Have you been to the Fringe before, is there anything you are keen to see whilst in Edinburgh? 

Our plan for the fringe is to have so much fun, meeting as many audience members as possible, both on stage if they volunteer and in the audience. Tips for first time performers? Pace yourself. It’s a long month ? It can feel like everything is an exciting opportunity and you can burn out super-quickly. So be kind to yourself and get lots of sleep! And also make sure you get to watch as many other shows as you can. We’re all going there to work, but you also need to come away feeling like you had an amazing time and made the most of the festival and didn’t just spend a month putting pressure on yourself! Supporting other performers and allowing them to amaze and inspire you can be super refreshing (especially when things get stressful or overwhelming!). We also plan to catch our all-star cast in their other shows while we’re there which include: Showstopper! The Improvised Musical, Bumper Blyton, Austentatious,The Maydays; Happily Never After, Impromptu Shakespeare, and Daniel Nils Robers: The History of the World in 1 Hour. And if you don’t fancy a show, head off to the beach or Arthurs Seat for a good old walk. It does your mind the power of good.

TF: And what are your future plans beyond Whose Mind Is It Anyway? 

This is just the beginning for WMIIA. We’re excited for Edinburgh but we’re also very excited about what the future holds for this unique show. Post Edinburgh, we will be returning to London where we are planning a weekly residency and hopefully a monthly West End residency too…before going off on tour in the UK and beyond. In 2020 and beyond we are planning to tour those parts of the world that love both improv and hypnosis, so we have exciting plans for some of the comedy festivals in Canada and the US and so much more up our sleeve. Watch this space. 

You can see Whose Mind Is It Anyway? at the Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose until 26th August at 22:30. For tickets, go to https://tickets.edfringe.com/