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I wonder if Psychic Sally saw this review coming...
Psychic Sally On the Road Tour
Member Name: Mildew82
Psychic Sally On the Road Tour
Advantages: May bring comfort to some grieving people, a few good laughs
Disadvantages: Exploitation, uncomfortable topics
So naturally to "share her gift of bringing comfort to the living by passing on messages from the dead" she has taken to the road for the last three years with her show "Psychic Sally: On the Road", at the mere price of Ģ24.50 at the Hexagon. A pittance to hear from your dearly departed loved ones, I'm sure. I do hope I'm coming across as a sceptic and more than a little scathing as that is the tone I was intending. I would like to say before I get down to the nitty gritty of this review that I mean absolutely no disrespect to anyone that believes in the power of psychics as what I know about the Afterlife could fit on a shredded postage stamp, and my own personal beliefs, or there lack of, probably did prejudice me against the show from the beginning so feel free to pass me off as a cynic.
So, first things first, I cannot deny that Sally Morgan is a very good show woman. She has quite a bubbly personality which extends out to the audience, has good comic timing and certainly got a few laughs throughout the night and is also able to generate something resembling a genuine connection with the "receivers" that the messages she picks up on are for. The production of her show is quite professionally done with a large TV screen to display an introductory video (complete with a glowing endorsment from none other than Danny Dyer - uh oh) and to see both herself and the "receivers" she talks to throughout the process all larger than life up there on stage as well as lots of helpers scurrying around with microphones. Basically, for the most part of the show she'll throw out little snippets from the spirits that occupy the stage with her until somebody bites from the audience and she'll have a good 5 minute conversation with them. The rest of the performance includes "reading photographs" and answering written questions given to her by audience members.
But whilst the production is slickly done, the show falls down big time on the contents in my opinion. Bearing in mind that whilst most have attended simply for entertainment, a lot of the audience are actually grieving, often for some quite recent events and have come in the hope of finding some peace by communicating with their lost ones they are clearly in an emotional, vulnerable and dare I say it an easily manipulatable state. It is this overwhelming desire to "believe" that plays right into Psychic Sally's hands allowing her to convince us all of her amazing gift and stun us with what we perceive to be a genuine supernatural experience.
"How could she possible know these things? *Gasp* It must be real."
Just one example of some comments I overheard that night. I'll admit that some of her psychic encounters, most noticeably in the first half of the performance, were "scarily" close to the truth with some of her "receivers" as she threw out name after name and events that were all true or something they could associate with. But some further analysis would probably highlight the subtle ambiguity and vagueness she used allowing people to make their own inferences and apply it to their own experiences and lives all through the "randomness" with which images, thoughts, even smells supposedly came to her. Convenient.
"I'm picking up the name Robert. Rob. Robbie. Bob, Bobbie? And something to do with a baby....does this mean anything to anybody here?"
Some of the interactions, and this is probably my cynical scepticism yet again, also felt like they were in some way already researched - it was just the way, with the utmost confidence, that she would sometimes fire out her questions or messages that seemed to match practically 100% of the time, whereas other times only 50% at best of what she was saying would match just made me extra suspicious. I'm not going to go as far as to suggest bugging or well placed spies as I'd probably get slapped with a lawsuit, but it definitely felt like major trickery was going on...
It was almost as if some of the stories she knew already, and the rest of the time she was on a fishing expedition, which I'll admit she was able to get through without losing too much face, but would never be in a million years convincing enough to convert a non-believer such as myself. For example, one of her techniques was after mentioning a name she would ask if they were still living on the earthly plain or in the spirit world. If the "receiver" said the spirit world, suddenly, lo and behold, their spirit was with us and they were alright. Urm...if she can see spirits, wouldn't she know they were already there without having to ask first?
Even though, as you can probably tell by now, I'm less than impressed with the forms of manipulation these chosen people in the audience undergo, I can't deny the cleverness of the setup which allows her to keep the audience hooked in whilst somewhat maintaining her credibility. When a reading wasn't going particularly well there was such obvious deflection through being able to imply that other spirits were interfering as she was talking or actually become physically disturbed by the spirits, saying that what the spirits were telling her maybe applied to a family member or friend of the receiver that was absent so could not be validated and constantly stating that she was merely the vessel and could not interpret what the spirits were trying to say.
My final bone of contention lies with some of the subject matters she started talking about. Dead babies was one horribly uncomfortable topic, especially with very weepy parents hearing Psychic Sally talking about, and sometimes almost as, their child as she put on a very childish voice. Maybe it offered them some comfort hearing that their child was in heaven and was okay, but it did feel very fake, and seriously exploitative of their grief. But if it worked for them who am I to argue, it's just not something I wanted to listen to, somebody's personal grief on display. Another story that got to me was when she suddenly became very agitated on stage and was talking about seeing only half a body and that it was too distressing for her to look at that particular spirit. Pause for dramatic effect. "Well that's what happens when you get hit by a train." Cue the gasps around the auditorium. This then led to an obviously very upset young man talking about his friend that had died after being hit by a train - again seriously uncomfortable listening in the name of entertainment.
I won't say it was the worst night's entertainment I've ever had as there were a good few laughs along the way, and some genuinely touching moments as you could see that for some people, real or not, what they were hearing helped, but I was left with a slightly bitter aftertaste in my mouth at the end of it all, especially as some of the stories were seemingly there for their shock value and dramatic effects and in my opinion very repugnant. The first half of the show had a much higher hit to miss ratio than the second, and so it also felt like the show was losing momentum as it drew to a close and she began to use more desperate antics on stage to completely stop it dying a death as more and more of her messages were beginning to flop. Then to finish the show there was a nice bit of self promotion. But of course, she's not in it for the money - it's all about sharing her gift.
I can't blame her for building up a successful business franchise in what is clearly a lucrative market, but for me how she operates is a form of exploitation no matter how badly people want it to be true and that really can't be overlooked or forgiven. To make such a good living from death (excuse the pun) and people's grief just seems distasteful to me. However, people are of course entitled to believe whatever they want, but if you don't believe I seriously wouldn't recommend going to this show - it certainly won't amaze or convert you to the spiritual side. Probably not my most poignant finish to a review, but this show was not for me.
Summary: Horrible exploitation at its worst
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