Theatre Review: Luke Jermay: Sixth Sense (Leicester Square Theatre, London)

What a card! Luke Jermay himself. Photograph: Kippa Matthews. Courtesy of the artist.

What a card! Luke Jermay himself. Photograph: Kippa Matthews. Courtesy of the artist.

Rating: *****

Luke Jermay can read your mind. Or at least that’s the premise of this show. With the seal of approval from both Derren Brown and Dynamo, this was never going to be some tawdry penny dreadful, no matter how cynical you are of such feats.

To be clear, this isn’t a “psychic” reading where con-artists exploit the vulnerability of emotional adults by asking a series of leading questions: or ‘cold reading’ as the method is know. Neither is Jermay going to tell you whether or not you’ll meet a tall, dark, handsome stranger (they’re never ginger, are they?), or the winning lottery numbers. He’ll simply read your thoughts at that moment, and will do so with frightening accuracy.

Shows like these are always going to attract sceptics and nay-sayers eager to find some fatal flaw in the process that will expose the artist as a fraud. However, Jermay’s approach is fully aware of this, and his show is aimed specifically at them. Knowing that no amount of astonishing results he can pull out of a hat will ever convince them, Jermay’s approach is very clever; he’s not trying to convince just them, but instead makes everyone leave deeply unsure.

With a slightly sinister premise for the show, and the severe-looking posters of him sporting an encyclopaedia of tattoos, you’re not quite expecting the rather innocuous and slightly shambling Basildon boy that is Jermay. None the less, as he starts to warm-up and begins to get an unsettling amount of details correct from his volunteers, his harmless nature suddenly becomes uncomfortably disarming. As the show goes on, the thoughts he reads begin to get more and more detailed in nature, taking readings both frivolous and serious from a huge range of audience members; somewhere around 20 in total.

If this is all a ruse, it’s one of the most elaborate around. For starters, he lets images selected from a pack of shuffled tarot cards lead what nature of reading he’ll do next, adding a sense of spontaneity and caprice. Furthermore, if all the audience members he takes readings from are indeed planted, then not only must the show be costing a fortune to stage, but Jermay has monopolised some of the best off-West End actors going. Those he reads from seem genuinely taken aback by what he relays. Notably, one audience member who sat next to me was genuinely shocked that he correctly got the colour of her underwear correct. Needless to say, despite knowing the importance of verifying facts as a journalist, I decided not to check. However, that’s not to say that this is implausible. You only have the assumption that these reactions and their word that they have not been approached before the show are true. But if it is all as real as Jermay says it is, then it’s a mind-blowing.

But ignoring the arguments about authenticity, what makes this show brilliant is Jermay’s superb sense of theatre. He’s never 100% right with his readings, and this is the most interesting thing about him. Whilst this might initially seem unimpressive, this air of fallibility actually makes him and his purported gift all the more intriguing. These misreadings could well be part of a more meticulous execution than you could imagine. If they are, it’s an excellent and slick misdirection. If not, then it just adds more enigma to his talent than before. This is what really sucks you in as it creates an overwhelming sense of grand drama that drives the show and your interest.

Furthermore, he does a great job of really including you as an audience. Through a few participation exercises, he makes you feel as integral to the show as those he just happens to take readings from. This sense of involvement makes you fall even deeper in captivation. He also makes sure that as unsettled as you are, there are also plenty of laughs, adding to his artillery of cheeky charms and making him seem more human than superhuman.

In short, I’m unable to tell you whether this is coup of mere suggestion or the genuine article of something that is staggeringly supernatural. But none the less, this is a humdinger of a mystery show that is as marvellous as he is mystic.

Luke Jermay: Sixth Sense played at the Leicester Square Theatre, London, WC2H 7BX, 8 – 13 July 2013.

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