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Doug Segal: I Know What You're Thinking
Published on Friday, 27 May 2011

4 stars

Laughing Horse @ The Quadrant (venue website)
26-28 May, 7:30pm-8:30pm
Reviewed by Richard Stamp

 Suitable for age 18+ only.
 Warning: Contains strong language.

If Doug Segal really knows what I’m thinking, he knows how much I enjoyed this sparkling mind-reading show.  Plucking words from sealed envelopes, pictures from unseen pages and even predicting the numbers for our very own lottery draw, he delivered a solid hour of unflagging amusement – filled with personality, and all underpinned by a quick and kindly wit.

Segal comes across – I think quite deliberately – as a younger, happy-go-lucky version of Derren Brown.  In place of Brown’s portentous self-importance, Segal offers chipper patter and an instantly-loveable rapport.  His style of mentalism, though, will be pleasingly familiar to anyone who’s watched the Goateed One on TV; employing techniques drawn from psychology and showmanship, he controls – or says he controls – his willing subjects’ choices, using trigger words and subliminal messages to guide them to the options he’d predicted all along.

It’s easy to see how you’d surrender to Segal’s gentle wiles.  He’s funny, relaxed and hugely professional, joshing kindly with his volunteers but never humiliating anyone he’s brought onto the stage.  And his act certainly seems convincing: in one particularly striking routine, he explains how he’s using his mastery of body language to pick off liars one by one, leaving the solitary truth-teller standing alone on the stage.

But it’s poppycock, of course.  The tricks he’s employing are age-old standards – and if (like me) you’re a certified smartypants, you’ll probably recognize how most of them are done.  Then again, if you are like me, cracking the secrets is part of the fun; and however old the chestnuts might be, Segal’s cooked up a brand-new dressing.  In one clever variation, a randomly-picked audience member read a word from my mind… yet still left without a clue how he’d really achieved what he’d done.

So here’s the bottom line: I can’t promise that you’ll be astounded – it depends how many similar shows you’ve seen before – but you will, most certainly, be entertained.  An hour spent with Segal was a warm and charming pleasure, which left a smile on my face and a fair few questions in my brain.  I’ve seen Derren Brown live before now, and I can honestly say I enjoyed Segal’s show more – so if you’re thinking you should buy a ticket, well, you’ve read my mind.

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These are archived reviews of shows from Brighton 2011.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.