Getting inside the head of The Forensic Mind Reader
(before he gets inside yours)
A few months before Edinburgh Fringe, I’m sipping coffee in the centre of Edinburgh and waiting nervously for Colin Cloud to appear. It’s hard to pre-empt a man who’s been likened to Derren Brown and Sherlock Holmes as many times as Cloud has.
When he arrives I quickly discover the comparisons, bold as they may be, are actually pretty accurate. (They’d be more accurate, perhaps, if Holmes wore skinny jeans and was decorated in tattoos).
Cloud is warm and affable but, as he sits opposite me, there’s no deer stalker in sight. There is, however, a wicked glint in his eye – the same look, I note, Benedict Cumberbatch uses to make millions of female viewers swoon on BBC’s Sherlock.
However, for Cloud, his interest in Sherlock Holmes pre-dates Cumberbatch and the BBC – instead it goes back to the books of Arthur Conan Doyle. An avid reader of the detective series since he was eight years old, what started as a fascination for Cloud has since turned into a rather unusual career path.
“The way [Holmes] made these grand deductions from seemingly insignificant details sparked my imagination,”
“I wanted to turn Conan Doyle’s fiction into a reality which eventually inspired me to develop my own set of skills.”
Cloud’s show, The Forensic Mind Reader, does just that. He reveals things about his audience that he just shouldn’t know – like the name of your first love or your PIN number. Even that weird thing you did yesterday when you thought no one was looking.
Unlike Holmes, Cloud stresses that he only ever reads those who want to be read.
“I love shifting the emotion of a room from laughter to astonishment in an instant,”
“But I want to make sure people enjoy taking part.”
Now that we’ve established the difference between Cloud and Holmes, I have to ask, what is it that sets him apart from Channel 4 favourite Derren Brown?
“Apart from my ridiculous hair?”
“Derren Brown is incredible and we both deal with the world of cerebral magic but the major difference is our performance style. We are completely different people.”
While both Brown and Cloud rely on psychology for their ‘readings’, Cloud takes his background in criminal profiling one step further.
“My scientific background [Cloud left school at 15 years old to pursue a degree in forensic investigation] means the things I do are linked to solving crimes and profiling people. I can work out if you’ve been naughty, what you’ve done and why you’ve done it.”
His comedy club background also differs from Brown’s.
“I learned to perform by touring comedy clubs, so I approach my shows with a sharp sense of humour.”
If Cloud is so good at reading people, does he ever use his abilities for his own gain off-stage?
“Yes – but we all do,”
“It’s easy to work out, for example, if someone likes you. They’ll give you more eye contact, blink less and mirror your level of emotions.”
He follows this with what is perhaps the most practical romantic advice I’ve ever heard.
“If you want to make someone like you,”
“stare back and forward between both of their eyes every six seconds. Their subconscious mind will recognise it as a sign that they should kiss you.”
These sort of techniques are applicable all over the world, as Cloud would know. Ahead of his Fringe run, he’s performed The Forensic Mind Reader in front of sold-out audiences in London, New York and Los Angeles.
Now Cloud is back in Edinburgh to embark on the show’s longest run yet. He’s taking on a 23 day stint at Just The Tonic’s The Caves.
As if his own two shows won’t keep him occupied enough, Cloud also chats about the shows he’s most looking forward to seeing himself.
“In terms of shows I’m not in, I’m looking forward to stand-up from Danny Mcloughlin and Javier Jarqin – the latter of which is pretty deadly with a deck of cards.”
As our conversation wraps up, I take out my debit card to pay for a now empty cup of coffee. Before my hand can so much as graze the chip and pin keypad, Cloud utters a four-number sequence that is very familiar to me. He’s spent the last half an hour telling me what he can do, but this is the first time I’ve seen it in action.
Now I have only one question left: how the hell did he do that? Cloud simply smiles,
“You told me. You just didn’t realise you were telling me.”
With that he pays for our coffees and disappears into the crowded street. Just like that, I’ve had my first encounter with a forensic mind reader.
Colin Cloud clearly possesses a gift that most of us don’t. At the Fringe, he’ll marry that unique talent with solid showmanship and quick wit. Just be prepared to change your PIN number afterwards.