Mind-reading and the Cold War: An Interview with ‘The Psychic Project’

Stage

On the 27th of January, The Psychic Project will be arriving at the Old Fire Station; focusing on the psychic spy research that the CIA conducted during the Cold War, it will engage the audience both through looking at history, and also exploring the powers of the mind. I spoke to David Narayan, the writer of the production, who gave me an insight into the different and complex aspects of show.

Firstly, David explains the historical foundation of the production –  the ‘psychic gap’ between the East and West during the Cold War. On receiving reports of Russian research into psychic spies, the Americans launched their own programme in an old army base in Maryland. They took the threat extremely seriously; reports sincerely argued that the Russians were moments away from reaching total mind control, being able to kill any US official from a distance, just by thinking. David explains how “America didn’t want to be left behind in what they thought was a whole new field of war-fare” and their research programme then took off, lasting for 23 years until 1995 when the documents were finally declassified. David has spent time researching these original documents for his production, and the show is particularly topical at the moment, following the recent ‘second wave’ release of the documents on the CIA website. He underlines the importance of this background of factual truth to the show, and it sounds like an engaging way of learning more about the Cold War: “I hope that the audience will find the history as interesting as the mind-reading, because it really is an amazing piece of history.”

“I hope that the audience will find the history as interesting as the mind-reading, because it really is an amazing piece of history.”

Crucially David emphasises how “a key part of the CIA’s research was the theory that you don’t need to be a natural psychic, they thought that a lot of people had an innate ability and so their aim was to take civilians and give them these techniques to be able to perform these psychic tasks.” Consequently the show is extremely interactive, engaging the audience, and making them the psychics, just as the CIA would recruit civilians: “a lot of mind-reading showers involve the perform doing the mind-reading. This show is different in that I don’t do any of the mind-reading, it is entirely the audience.”

Finally I ask David whether mind-reading is truly possible: “I think the mind does more stuff than you think it can. The show uses things that I would never have thought possible ten years ago before I started looking into it all.” He hastens to add that he is certainly not a psychic, and what happens in the show ‘is not paranormal’ at all. This only leaves me more uncertain about what the show truly involves; maybe the only way to find out is to go along and see for myself. The Psychic Project looks set to be a truly intriguing, thought-provoking, and engaging production.

 

The Psychic Project has now sold out, but will be on in Oxfordshire later this year.

Find out more at www.thepsychicproject.com for future dates.