THEATRE, Cape Town, Andre the Hilarious Hypnotist, Roxy Revue Bar, GrandWest Casino and Entertainment World, May 1 to June 9, 2019. When this season is over, Andre will pop up at other venues in South Africa. Watch out – and be hypnotized. 

How Andre the Hilarious Hypnotist honed his skills in The South African Defence Force, in the Entertainment Unit in the late 1980s: “Young men were willing subjects. They were good subjects because they were open to suggestion because of the discipline [in the army]. They were used to following orders.” Chilling. Read on…

Andre’s career began when he was four and he appeared in an advert which was screened in cinemas. Throughout his childhood, he performed magic and clown shows at children’s parties and other events.

His interest in stage hypnosis occurred when he was in matric and he spotted a photograph of the late and great stage hypnotist Max Collie. This Scotsman by birth settled in South Africa and enthralled audiences with his spellbinding routines. Andre was intrigued and bought a six page booklet on hypnosis from a novelty shop and taught himself. This was before YouTube and tutorials on the internet. That was the start of Andre’s career as a hypnotist. 

In addition to magic tricks – animal balloons and what-not, hypnosis was added to the mix. He watched Max Collie performing and chatted to him after a show. Andre began corresponding with Collie who lived in Sea Point. This was before e-mail. It was by snail mail.

Following school, Andre did his two years in the army. While he was stationed in the army in Pretoria, he traveled regularly to watch Max Collie perform at the Victory Theatre in Orange in Johannesburg. 

Andre developed his craft by watching Collie and also from tuition he received from others including UK hypnotist, Delevar who was at the time, chairman of the British Council of Stage Hypnotists.

In the army, there were plenty of opportunities to refine his craft. There was an ample supply of young men who were willing subjects. Andre: “They were good subjects. They were open to suggestion because of the discipline [in the army]. They were used to following orders.”

In the army, Andre was assigned to the Entertainment Unit. Here he was ordered to carry out less than kosher exercises- in the name of defense of the nation in the Old South Africa. This was 1988/9. Andre was part of the last two-year intake of soldiers. Conscription ended in 1991. 

His job title in the unit was “magician and juggler”. As mentioned at the start of post, it is chilling stuff and what went on is not pretty. This was certainly not hypnosis as entertainment. For instance in a village in Angola, Andre says he was given an insight into “the dark power of magic and superstition” as a propaganda tool and the power of suggestion. “We were trying to convince the guys to vote for South Africa”.

Andre told me in a 2007 interview that they staged ventriloquist shows with a tokoloshe doll. The entertainment corps operators changed the Angolan flag into a South African flag; toilet paper into money. When they “cut” a lady into three at the end of a show people thought she was dead. Andre told me: “I had a moral problem with it, I still do.” 

After the army, Andre went off to university to his teacher training in Pretoria. Collie was very much an active force in the entertainment biz. Andre believed that there was no space for him to compete with the great Max Collie. Although he did not perform in professional venues, while he was studying he continued to hone his hypnosis skills and do magic shows. He put on hypnosis shows at schools. Nearing the end of his teacher training, these shows became popular with and he was building up a reputation in the industry. 

Following Collie’s death, his producer Jeff Egnos approached Andre. Egnos had imported hypnotists from abroad and according to Andre they had bombed. Egnos asked him if he would like to do a stint as a stage hypnotist. Andre was game. An eight week sell-out season at the Victory Theatre followed. His career as a professional as a stage hypnotist was launched.

Twenty six years later (2019) and Andre is loving his craft.

*Show details Wed May 1- 8pm; Thurs May 2- 8pm, Fri May 3 – 8pm, Sat May 4- 5pm and 8pm and Sunday May 5 – 3pm. Thereafter Fri, Sat (two shows) and Sun till June 9. Tickets R120 available at Computicket and at the door.