Intuition is a strange thing and Luke Jermay is even stranger.
Building on his acclaimed debut show Sixth Sense, which came to Fareham in late 2017, the entertainer is back and better than ever with his new interactive stage show.
Jam-packed with phenomenal demonstrations of intuition, telepathy and prediction; your mind will be read, your choices will be predicted and your future will be revealed.
He has helped create jaw-dropping shows with Derren Brown, Dynamo and Criss Angel, and was also a consultant for the hit TV show The Mentalist.
But more recently he has been taking centre-stage himself. Following a stint living in the US, the Essex-born Jermay now resides in Manchester and is focusing on performing here.
‘Culturally there’s a great tradition of appreciation for magic, and mind-reading and the mystery arts in the UK, which isn’t necessarily present in other countries. I think the British have a kind of fondness for that kind of thing, and see it as a form of entertainment rather than religious or spiritual.
‘I see what I do as theatre rather than anything else.’
Talk with Jermay for any amount of time and it soon emerges that his fascination with intuition goes back way beyond this show.
But as he tells The Guide: ‘It’s actually my second favourite word – my favourite word is Abracadabra. I think it’s a beautiful word, if you look into the history of it, it’s from the Aramaic, which means “I create as I speak”.
‘The idea of real magic - not tricks, not smoke and mirrors – real magic is in the mind. When that definition was given to it, there was this idea that it was really about was the thoughts that you think. Now with modern neuroscience we’re discovering that you can change your brain in certain ways – there are these theories like neuroplasticity. I think real magic is the idea of transformation – you can change the world by the way you think about it.
‘So that’s my favourite word, but the more I think about it, the more I realise it zones in on this notion of intuition.
‘And intuition is a very interesting word because it means so many different things to different people. If you say it to a big burly sceptical man, he’ll immediately think this is some sort of Mystic Meg, or talking to the dead territory, which it isn’t, there’s no spirit-mediumship in the work I do. Maybe if you talk to someone new age-y they might think it means psychic power. And if you speak to a scientist, they might think it means “the adjacent possible”. This is an idea that human beings have the ability to imagine a future that’s different from the present – literally imagining something different for yourself and then causing it to happen through your actions here in the present.
‘There doesn’t seem to be a shared definition of intuition – if you ask 10 people, you’ll get 10 different definitions. I was talking to a professional poker player recently, and he immediately turned it into: “Ah, well, I’m very good at reading tells in people”. Other people will say: “I have a sister who’s all the way in Australia but we can still communicate.”
‘For me, the greatest thing about intuition is that it’s a genuine mystery, we know a little bit about it and science is constantly chasing these things, but even cutting-edge experts to give you an explanation of the process of intuition, no-one really knows. I think we’re all guessing, it’s this feeling we have and we don’t really know why.
My theory of intuition is that our mind works so fast that when we’re faced with a decision, we go through a very complex process of logic where we’re working out all of these things based on our previous experience and then our mind gives us an answer. But we don’t know where that answer came from because it’s so implicit and inherent in our way of thinking it appeared to pop in our mind from nowhere. And because we’ve got a gap there between the question and the answer it feels quite magical: How did I know that? Why did I think that?’
That's not to say Luke thinks this is some kind of supernatural process.
‘’I don’t think you have to sacrifice goats or anything,’ he laughs. ‘It’s absolutely natural. But I love the fact that even if you speak to people on completely opposing ends of the belief system, even they have to admit they don’t really know what it is, so that makes it really fertile ground for someone like me because what I want to do is give an audience a feeling of uncertainty.
‘I want to give those people in the room experience a mystery.
When people experience something that’s amazing and they don’t know how it works, it’s like that little filter bubble – their certainty about the world – it bursts, and suddenly you’re placed in this feeling of uncertainty, which is rare these days.’
And it’s important for him to involve as many people as possible in his shows to remove any doubt that it’s somehow staged.
‘I try to make sure as many people in that theatre are directly engaged and directly experience it. Otherwise it’s too easy for people to say: “Oh, they’re all actors or stooges, it’s all a big set-up”. The moment you experience it personally then you know you’re not in on it.
‘This feeling of mystery and uncertainty is a really healthy emotional experience to engage with in the world we now live in.’
That said, Luke is aware not everyone in the audience wants to be hauled onto the stage.
‘One thing I have to be conscious of is that some people just want to watch the show, while others are just dying to get up on the stage. Thankfully you don’t need great intuition to tell the difference…
‘If anyone thinks we’re going to get them up there and turn them into a chicken, that’s not what we do - it’s not hypnotism.
‘We don’t force anyone to engage and we don’t embarrass anyone either.’
The second half of the show is devoted to tarot cards and readings. How did Luke get into tarot?
‘That’s been a lifelong thing for me. I grew up in a home that was very open-minded towards all of these things – my family would go to spiritualist churches and get tarot readings, palm readings, all that. Then as a teenager I did what every teenager does and that is to rebel against whatever belief system surrounds you, just because you’re a teenager.
’I called BS on all of it and thought it was a con – taking advantage of psychology and it was magic tricks. It led me to learn about these things through the sceptical voices of people like James Randi or Penn and Teller.
‘A few years later in my early 20s, I had a complete reversal where I chose to view this object, the tarot cards, not as something mystical or supernatural but instead as a tool, a machine that generates metaphor.
‘When you look at those images you can’t help but look at your life – that’s what we do – you can’t help but find patterns and connections, it’s what we’re hardwired to do.
‘When I removed any kind of claim to the supernatural, they suddenly came much more useful than the superstitions I think are attached to them. I say that a pack of tarot cards is like going to an art gallery – you look at the images and they give you ideas you would never have had if you hadn’t seen them. And if you go to a tarot reader, it’s like going to the gallery with a tour guide who can tell you why certain things make you feel certain things.
‘Seeing them as a psychological search – and this is where it becomes a mystery it is to me – the more you’re viewing things in that way, the more you’re training your mind to work in that way, the more naturally intuitive you become.
‘Maybe it’s like muscle, the more you use it, the stronger it gets. Sometimes when doing a reading I’ll say something and I don’t know why I said it, or why that idea came to me, but the person opposite me will say: “That’s the name of my grandmother” or something like that. There’s something else going on there, and I don’t know what.’
It all builds to create his own unique style.
‘In the theatre I mix it all, I mix magic tricks designed to look like mind-reading, I mix real intuition, psychology, ancient forms of divination – my techniques are a real mish-mash of all of these things, and I never really tell anyone what’s what.
‘My goal here is not to convert anyone to believe anything but to give you that feeling of mystery and uncertainty.
‘I want to create this fantasy and I use every tool of theatre at my disposal.’
LUKE JERMAY: INTUITION
The Ashcroft Arts Centre, Fareham
Wednesday, February 13