The Manchurian Approach

18th & 19th April 2009, Derby

A review by Chris Harding

A weekend in Derbyshire like no other…on a slightly overcast Friday afternoon I found myself driving up the motorway on route to attend a two-day course entitled “The Manchurian Approach.” Although I did not know it at this stage, it was to be a weekend that I would never forget.

Anthony Jacquin has become well recognised in the magic world over the last couple of years, following the publication of his fabulous book “Reality is Plastic: The Art of Impromptu Hypnosis.” Having always had a fascination with hypnosis I decided to order the book and try and get to grips with this slightly elusive art. Well, the book arrived along with a free DVD full of instruction and tips on many of the techniques from the book. The book is an excellent read and is certainly a “page-turner” in the sense that once you start reading it, it is very difficult to put down, due to the clear, precise and very understandable style in which it has been written.

What is also worth mentioning here is the superb correspondence that Anthony provided after I bought the book. Always on hand to give advice and answer any questions that one may have regarding any of the techniques set out in the book, this is indeed very kind and immensely useful. I was very excited by the book itself and immediately wanted to express my feedback to the author and after a period of correspondence, the topic of “The Manchurian Approach” came up.

“The Manchurian Approach” is a two-day course aimed solely at magicians and mentalists. It is an intensive training weekend that runs as follows:

Day one kicks off early with a detailed classroom training session that focuses on the approach, set piece and very quick induction that will allow you to literally approach anyone and put them into a hypnotic trance in just a few short minutes. Having spent a considerable number of hours in the classroom setting, learning and practising the techniques, it is then time to hit the streets and the bars to put the newly learnt skills into practise - in the trenches - so to speak.

Day two starts off with a discussion about the night before and the experiences that people had as well as some consolidation on the techniques themselves. This is followed by a detailed examination of the applications of hypnosis to the world of magic and mentalist performances. With some very specific practical applications along with countless tips, ideas and brainstorming, the imagination is pushed to the extreme and opens up a whole new realm of performance possibilities.

In my opinion, this was one of the most fascinating and worthwhile weekends ever. Anthony Jacquin is an outstanding teacher and makes the topic of hypnosis, not only very clear, but also very approachable. Although I had read the book beforehand, I had not yet been brave enough to try out any of the techniques and this was part of my motivation for attending the course. So on the first day myself and a small group of magicians and mentalists were collected from a nearby hotel by Anthony and driven to the Derbyshire Conference Centre, to begin the training. What was particularly brilliant was the fact that as the techniques were being taught, we were all then encouraged to practice on each other and this was aided by Anthony and his team, all of whom were extremely helpful and friendly.

I should take this opportunity to mention that along with Anthony himself, were the following guys, all of whom were tremendously helpful throughout the learning process. Kev Sheldrake, Amit Badiani and Vince Lynch are all very accomplished hypnotists and their knowledge and experience was particularly inspiring as well as being a very valuable resource to answer any queries and questions that anyone had throughout the course.

So back to day one; having completed the classroom training and feeling confident with the hypnotic techniques that we had learnt it was time to head into town for some lunch before hitting the streets to hone the skills. I think it is fair to say that there was a alight air of nerves and tension as we headed out to start hypnotising the public. However, with Anthony and the team on standby for moral support and also to give us some backup it did not take long before the whole group was hypnotising strangers on the streets of Derbyshire city centre. What was particularly fascinating to behold was the huge amount of interest that hypnosis creates from passers-by. It certainly does not take long for a crowd to assemble.

Having spent some time on the streets hypnotising unsuspecting strangers, we headed to a popular local bar where we assembled and regrouped, ready to move onto the evening training. I was particularly excited to learn throughout the course of the evening that hypnosis does not require a silent, clinical room in order to be effective. Anthony quickly proved that this was not the case and had the whole lot of us hypnotising unsuspecting drinkers into varying states of hypnotic trance. It was a great way to end day one and I think everyone left that night with much excitement about what was still to come the following day.

So after a few hours sleep, we were back at the conference centre for further training and some discussion and tutorial on how hypnosis can be weaved into a magic or mentalist performance, creating a unique type of performance that gives the character of the performer another, slightly darker but intriguing side. Anthony set out some fantastic practical applications as well as demo-ing his brilliant routine, “The mask of Sanity.” Anyone that attended the recent Tabular Mentis meeting in London will have seen how strong this performance piece is live. The second day also provided an abundance of opportunities for some one-to-one discussions with the training team and I think that the fact that the course is limited to just a small number is great as it really does allow for that personal advice and feedback, which is invaluable.

I think that everyone got some very valuable skills out of this weekend and I was genuinely sorry when it wrapped up on Sunday. It had gone by so quickly and been so enjoyable and I met a great bunch of people, many of whom have become friends since the course. It has been great to be able to discuss the techniques with Anthony and his team since the course and I can honestly say that anyone with even a curiosity about this genre of performance should definitely get involved in “The Manchurian Approach” when it comes to a city near you. Just be careful if you decide to shake hands with Anthony or Amit! I will explain…

Some of the more avid readers of the Alakazam Magic mailing list may already have seen the YouTube video but in case not, then I want to give the link for it here. For me, a personal highlight of the whole weekend course was being hypnotised by Anthony himself. I never realised how susceptible I am to being hypnotised and for your enjoyment, you can check out the video Here. Having now watched it back, I draw the conclusion that reality really is plastic and that Anthony Jacquin is the most dangerous man in Britain!!!!

I wholeheartedly recommend “The Manchurian Approach” to anyone with an interest in hypnosis and how it can be applied to a magical performance. No prior knowledge is required and the courses run at various locations across the country throughout the year. Check out for details on up and coming courses. I will definitely be up for doing more in the future, not only to consolidate what I have already learnt but also because the guys are great fun to hang out with and the whole weekend is tremendous value for money.

© Chris Harding, May 2009