Andrew Newton, Interviewed by Brian Le Sueur for the Jersey Evening Post. [Unedited]
How did you originally get involved in hypnotising people?
I’ve always been fascinated by odd behaviour, particularly of people in groups, and the herd mentality of humans. I read loads of psychology books when I was young – when other kids were out playing football, I was reading Milton Erikson’s books. My favourite book was ‘The Madness of Crowds’ which was about tulip growing, strangely, but it was my first insight into insane human behaviour. At school I’d use suggestion to play pranks on people. I got away with that for years. I didn’t discover hypnosis until I was in my early 20’s because it wasn’t taught in those days – ‘mesmerism’ was strictly taboo and it’s different to hypnosis. I have used mesmerism on stage but I try to avoid it because it’s plain with fire, but I have used it with difficult hypnotherapy clients.
What’s the worst thing that’s happened to you on stage?
Two years ago I fell off the stage in New Zealand and spent the whole tour hobbling around the stage every night high on painkillers.
A couple of my ‘subjects’ have escaped – one left the theatre and went to the local police station to report his belly-button stolen – he was searched and they found his ticket in his pocket. He was returned safely to the theatre.
I’m constantly surprised by people’s inventiveness. I’ve seen and heard some hysterically funny – and surprising – things over the years. But stage hypnosis can be unpredictable and sometimes the law of unexpected consequences comes in to play and routines don’t turn out they way I expected. You have to really be on your guard all the time.
Can anyone be hypnotised?
Given time… almost certainly. But I have to work quickly on stage – there is a lot of pressure to get the show going and stick to time. Stage hypnosis is very different from hypnotherapy – all sorts of different factors come into play – there are lots of distractions and sometimes it’s difficult to keep your eye on everybody! In the UK, the Home Office rules say you have to have a white line near the fronton the stage – the reason is so people won’t fall off. What a bunch of crap. When ordinary members of the public are on unfamiliar ground, and hypnotised, and the lights are in their eyes, it can be a confusing and disorientating environment. The last thing they’ll be thinking about is where the white line is. The best way to keep someone from falling off the stage is to keep them seated. If one is moving around, I stand by them every second.
Why did you buy a Dalek?
I was at a BBC auction bidding for something I thought would look good in my conservatory – then I saw the Dalek and realised it would look better. I’ve repaired all the electronics inside it and rigged it so when it speaks it sounds like a Dalek and its ‘ears’ light up just like the Daleks on Dr Who. The irony is, I never watch Dr Who – it’s rubbish now – it was good when William Harnell was the first doctor. Or maybe it’s because I was only eight tat the time. My friends love it. My wife hates it. Exterminate! Exterminate!
When I was younger I wanted to be… an explorer. If I go on holiday, it’s usually somewhere exotic and devoid of tourists. In 1995 I took a year off to fly my plane around Africa, but it didn’t end well. Flying very late in the day and hemmed in by a violent thunderstorm, I tried to land at a small grass airfield near Lake Victoria. Unfortunately I mistook a neighbouring tea plantation for the runway and crashed, writing it off. I was incredibly lucky to walk away, but I was hospitalised and have some scars. Not to worry, six weeks later, I bought a better one.
I was robbed at gunpoint in South Africa (2005) arrested in Zimbabwe (1997) and deported from Russia (1983) for making a crack about the ‘glorious workers paradise.’ Those communists have no sense of humour.
The person who has had the biggest influence on my life is…
My father was a spitfire pilot in the War. In my eyes, he is a hero. I once moaned to him about how much pressure I was under and he replied: “pressure? Try having a Messerschmitt up your arse – that’s pressure!” which perfectly put it all into perspective. He was a very kind and gentle man and had a very keen sense of justice, but I also think I inherited my cynicism from him – he didn’t suffer fools gladly either.
My favourite spot in Jersey is (if you have one, I know you’ve been a few times)…
During those long summer seasons, I used to frequent the Bon-Viveur restaurant in St. Aubins. Many an afternoon spent in there with friends, putting the world to rights over a glass or two of red!
The one possession I would save in a fire would be my …
Nothing. I’d stand back and enjoy watching it all burn.
The last time that I really belly-laughed was when…
Donald Trump was elected President. I’m still laughing.
If I could meet one famous person now, or from history it would be…
Dr Walford Bodie, the most famous showman of his time and the first stage hypnotist (circa 1900.) I bet he’d have some stories to tell!
Joseph Stalin is a close second – not many people know that before he became a revolutionary he trained as a priest. I also admire Vladimir Putin – people don’t understand what a brilliant man he is, or how he has managed to drag Russia up from the brink of collapse. The West doesn’t understand the Russian mentality, instead we try to impose our own moral philosophy on every other culture, and that’s a big huge mistake.
The one gadget I could not live without is…
Nothing. I can live without it all. It’s the experiences of life that matter to me. Objects, possessions, are irrelevant.
The best advice I have been given is…
To try and relax a bit… but I can’t sit around doing nothing. I read, but not as much as I used to. I’m busy with other things away from hypnotism.
I can’t live without…
Change. Life would be very dull if I couldn’t travel. I get itchy feet if I’m at home too long.
If I could speak to my younger self, I would say…
“Don’t do it!!!” many many many times.
My biggest regret in life is…
I do not get enough time with my son – he lives in Johannesburg with his evil mother, her evil mother, and her slick lawyer husband, a religious nut job who spends all his spare time reading the f***ing Bible.
The thing that makes me happiest is…
Why is this your last show in Jersey?
It’s my last show at Fort Regent. I am booked up solid for the next 2 years with tours of Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Norway and of course the usual UK theatre circuit, which seems to be getting smaller by the year – but my main focus is still overseas, as in fact it always has been. Plus I have lecturing work – something I started doing a few years ago and the quality of that work is extremely high because I’m sharing platforms with some of the world’s leading psychologists and academics and that’s a big feather in my cap. I spend a lot of time in Cape Town – South Africa is my principal country of residence and Cape Town is my ‘fall-out’ shelter. If I come back, it wouldn’t be for a few years and I would be looking at a more intimate venue. These big arena shows are getting too stressful.
I sense you don’t think very highly of other stage hypnotists. Would that be right?
Yes… because they’re mainly thieving scum without an original thought in their heads. They see me doing something new and within weeks, they’re all doing it. Ideally, I’d like to get them all in a room and gas them.