Review by Greg Barradale
I have to admit that I was more than a little bit sceptical before seeing Psychic Sally. The pre-show disclaimer exclaiming “Due to EU regulations we are obliged to tell you that Sally’s act hasn’t been scientifically proven…but Sally would say it hasn’t been unproven [sic] either” did nothing to help this, nor the surreal hard house the small medium came on stage to.
Sally’s act consists of a series of ‘scenes’ in which she is visited by spirits of people. She communicates with these spirits by relaying her understanding of their vague wailings to the audience. “It’s saying Tess…Tessa? Does anyone here know a Tess? No? Ok maybe it was Jess?” and so on until somebody in the audience stands up. Fishing for more connections, she continues with the person who has stood up, getting them in touch with their dead relative, and more often than not ending on a bittersweet note of “They’re really proud of you”.
Of course, the nagging feeling is whether this is, you know, okay. It’s aggressive, looking to play on the emotions and loss of the audience. After all, her act is talking exclusively with dead relatives.
With those who it works for, it provides a nice emotion. Yet, the way that burrows in is by targeting people’s weak spots. One scene consisted of Sally trying to find if anyone’s brother had died horribly in a car crash. There’s a strange tension there that never fully works itself out.
On one hand it can’t connect with people who haven’t had that loss, so seems to exploit that. But on the other, people do put themselves into it, they expose themselves to it by paying going to the psychic show. You have to submit yourself to it for it to work, for you to get what you want out of it.
It’s entertaining and maybe an escape, which for me redeemed it.
Psychic Sally’s ability simply to manipulate a crowd, to talk non-stop and make links for two hours, was baffling. An apt comparison is the stand-up comedian, riffing off the crowd to an extent, but clearly with a great amount of scripted material. There was a point where one plant nearly gave the game away by giving in to the same laughter that many had been stifling the whole first act.
Impressive as this was, the second act delivered more of the same. I don’t know what I was expecting – pyrotechnics were clearly off the table and I probably would’ve only been genuinely convinced by her bringing Bowie back from the dead. Still, it was slick, moving on from any failures without notice and diving straight back in to the fishing. Not sleight of hand, but sleight of tongue.
You’d like to think that most of the audience didn’t believe in Sally’s supernatural powers; that the army of women and the smattering of boyfriends and husbands sat in St David’s Hall were simply there for a fun night out. There were times, though, when Sally would get it right two times in a row and it did start to look as though my cynicism was misplaced.
Psychic Sally: An ordinary woman with an extraordinary gift.
The gift of the gab.