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Brighton Fringe 2010

The Alpha Project

Simply Told

Venue: Coachwerks


Low Down

This was an immersive experience for 2 people, in which both people are in role, taking part in a psychological experiment and are in effect their own ‘audience’, stepping into a show in which they are the performers, ‘blurring the boundary between physical and extrasensory experience’.


This is an experience which is not unlike what it would be like to suddenly fined oneself taking part in a episode of the X-Files or something equally Fortean. It begins with a questionnaire and uses psychological and various other types of techniques to make the performers feel uneasy once their roles have been assigned.

The set looks like an interview room crossed with a laboratory, and is full of Eighties-style technological equipment  ‑ old reel-to-reel tape recorders, film projectors and screens, and sealed envelopes. There are sound effects and snatches of dialogue.
Various tests are administered but one is never quite sure of the result or if one did well or not. Perhaps we were experiencing how it must feel to be a psychic being ‘tested’.
Wikipedia states
 ‘…Project Alpha was an elaborate hoax orchestrated by the stage magician and skeptic James Randi…’
Perhaps this was a re-creation of that project, which took place in the 1980s? The publicity states that it is based on real events. But perhaps the Wikipedia entry is a hoax?  One of the men behind Simply Told is Richard Wiseman from the University of Hertfordshire, who describes himself as a ‘psychologist, magician, and author’.
There appeared to be people filming the tests we were taking part in. But were they really filming? And if so, what were they going to do with the film? Had we signed a real waiver or a pretend one?
As we came out, my companion remarked that the experience was ‘not unlike going to the Dentist’s’.
It was certainly an unforgettable experience and one which I am still pondering. Especially the cutlery section.