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Tom Binns is Ian D Montford – The Sunderland Psychic

Note: This review is from 2010

Review by Steve Bennett

In hospital DJ Ivan Brackenbury, Tom Binns created an inept, slightly backward character who behaved hilariously inappropriately around vulnerable people, while under the deluded opinion he possessed a great talent. However, Binns’s new creation, Sunderland psychic Ian D Montfort, is an inept, slightly backward character who behaves hilar… well, you get the picture.

Mediums are, of course, a ridiculously easy target. People who pretend they can see dead people, communicating through conveniently vague statements and talking in overblown faux-mystical gobbledygook are just begging to be mocked. The only hard part might be to contain any rage about their exploitation of the grief-stricken when doing so.

However, Binns keeps things typically silly with a creation even more ridiculous than Derek Acorah. While some of the jokes about just how wide the psychics cast their nets to make a connection are obvious ones, he does it with such cheek you’re instinctively drawn to him. Montfort is such a sympathetic character, that even when he’s clutching at straws, failing to communicate with ‘the side of spirit’, or even fondling his audience targets inappropriately, you still have a soft spot for him.

But here’s the twist: Montfort doesn’t always fail. With a dedication rare among character comedians, Binns has learned some of the tricks of the trade from acclaimed psychic illusionist Philip Escoffey. Asking the audience to picture a dead celebrity, Montfort ‘cold reads’ the audience, correctly getting their names and their thoughts. The style of the act is genius – if it works, it’s impressive, if it doesn’t work, well it’s all part of the joke.

Yet he gets its right more than you’d think, much to the bemusement of those he successfully reads when it all appeared to be in jest. He also summons the spirits of William Shakespeare and equally esteemed writer Norris McWhirter, laying the ground for a couple of memory tricks. They didn’t quite run smoothly today – the poorly chosen Guinness Record was more a matter of general knowledge than a test of his skills, while the volunteer chosen to pick a passage from the Bard was clearly going to be hard work from the get-go. Yet eventually we get there, and the trick is a triumph.

Binns is a master of crowd work, which is obviously vital to a show such as this, but he goes further, engendering a camaraderie among the audience with in-jokes and quick banter. Unlike the ‘real’ psychics, this is all a bit of Knockabout fun. It’s all a bit mental, you could say.

But then he probably knew I was going to write that…

Review date: 17 Aug 2010
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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