Doug Segal - 'I Know What You're Thinking' - Edinburgh Fringe Review

He does.
It is very unfortunate that Doug Segal’s run at the Fringe has finished for the year. And not just because it renders this review pretty much useless, coming late after a heavy weekend of rain-lashed, cider drinking festival capers. No, it is a shame it has finished so early because I imagine this would have been the last chance anyone will have to see Segal’s mind-blowing show for free in a shabby, cramped room in a pub as part of the Edinburgh Fringe. Although I am secretly happy to at last be smugly joining the brigade of annoying people who can forever boast about having seen someone first as a free act in a shabby cramped room in a pub during the Edinburgh Fringe.

Segal had already been pinned as the new Derren Brown even before I attended the show, mid-way through week one of the festival. It is hard to avoid this comparison, probably because there are no other names that immediately spring to mind when comparing unsettlingly tricksy British cabaret acts that specialise in mind reading. I’m not sure where the market for unsettlingly tricksy British cabaret acts that specialise in mind reading disappeared to, but for whatever reason there aren’t many around. Well, there aren’t many good ones around. There’s Derren Brown. And now there’s Doug Segal.

Perhaps the reason that so many unsettlingly-tricksy-British-cabaret-acts-that-specialise-in-mind-reading fail to make an impact on the public arena is that the audiences here in the UK can be so sceptical. It’s also because these acts are usually one of three things – 1) shit 2) cheats or 3) shit cheats. Segal is none of these things. He is amazing. And he’s smart. In fact he’s amazingly smart.

The reason I know this to be a fact, despite every strand of my natural fibre screaming “IT’S A FIX!” is that my Dung Beetling companion turned out to be one of the audience members selected at random to take part in the show. If it wasn’t for that I would honestly struggle to believe in this guy, because what transpires is simply mind-boggling.

Segal is honest with the audience in admitting that what he is doing is not magic – he is, rather terrifyingly, simply using his backgrounds in psychology and advertising in order to not only read people, but actually implant extremely specific and seemingly unrelated thoughts, beliefs and opinions into their minds.

He distracts the audience for a while with clever but small-fry tricks using cards, numbers, drawings and chess pieces. We are lured into a false sense of security, thinking yes, it’s very clever, but it is what it is.  We silently sigh with relief, safe in the knowledge that our minds, emotions, inner-most thoughts and powers of free will remain unthreatened and intact. We laugh inside, disbelieving that we ever imagined that we could be threatened by this one man, a conjurer, up there guessing which hand holds the rook and which hand holds the six of clubs. And now look! He has been outsmarted by an audience member! Yes, we are very much still the masters of our own minds. Muhahahaha.


I won’t give the game away. But somehow, at somepoint, in someway, Segal has managed to penetrate the minds of his selected audience members, who by this point are sitting, apparently safely, back in their seats. It may not be magic, but by the time we are being amused by the card tricks and number games, silently and gleefully judgmental, we are already under the spell. We’re on his time now.

And cue the Hollywood ending.

The next time you come across Doug Segal you may well have to pay a ticket price. But do it. It’s worth it. The whole show was impressive, and the main twist in the evening will leave you open-mouthed in awe. Segal is likeable and also manages to inject a fair amount of comedy into his act, which separates him from the spookiness and intensity associated with Derren Brown and gives the whole evening a more relaxed feel.

And if you’re still not convinced then consider this; at the beginning of the show, Segal committed the cardinal sin of mistaking Edinburgh for Glasgow. True, he is lucky that the festival is full of tourists, otherwise he may never have had a chance to leave the venue and attempt to fulfil his destiny as the second most famous unsettlingly-tricksy-British-cabaret-act-that-specialises-in-mind-reading. However, despite this blunder, I have still left the room thinking he is amazing. Don’t tell me you don’t believe in magic.

1 comment:

  1. Brilliant. I am so gutted that I did not get to see this guy! Great review.