Thursday, October 6

Derren Brown: Showman – Leeds Grand Theatre

At the end of this hugely entertaining and mystifying show Derren Brown asked reviewers not to give the game away about any of the set ups.

That is a lot easier than the master mesmeriser thinks as no decent reviewer ever gives the plot away unless it’s the forthcoming Titanic musical where we all know what happens. Hint…the voyage doesn’t end well.

This is Brown’s first new show for five years, but his popularity hasn’t waned as it was a full house to witness his trademark mix of mind control, uncanny people reading and nifty misdirection.  People come to these shows to see if they can work it out, and here’s some good news for his fans – it is still impossible. That’s all part of the fun, and there’s one part of this show where I am still utterly baffled how he pulled it off.

This time round he is using all those hard years he’s put into perfecting his craft to think about remembering what is important, and how our fears and difficulties can actually connect us, which is especially powerful as we struggle back to normality after the pandemic.

Each set up involves members of the audience chosen at random in quite an ingenious way. We know deep down that Brown is in control of what is happening, but we don’t care as he deftly works with the varied individuals who join him onstage. I was sitting there thinking as a hardened reviewer that I was immune to how he effortlessly he had 2000 people in the palm of his hand until I realised that something had happened onstage which had impacted on me without even realising it. It was entertaining and a little unsettling all at the same time

Brown is now a consummate showman always working hard to make this a fun, but challenging, experience with a warm wit that he deploys to take your mind off the mental mayhem going off onstage. He is also a gifted stand up who has to be very quick on his feet with quips as audience members troop on and off stage.

Despite a complete mastery of his craft Brown has no interest in humiliating people and instead he uses different techniques to explore what motivates people to respond in the way they do, and why.  At the core of this intelligent, funny and beautifully paced show, full of both wonder and not a little melancholia, Brown achieves his aim of bringing us all together in a way that no-one could see coming.

Derren Brown can stand proud in the long line of mentalists who have performed in this historic theatre, and it is no spoiler to say you will definitely walk away thinking how on earth did he do that?  And that is exactly the point.  

Derren Brown is at Leeds Grand until Saturday 27th August and touring. To book or 0113 2430808.

Reviewer: Paul Clarke

Reviewed: 24th August 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★