Saturday, January 28

Derren Brown: Showman – The Alexandra, Birmingham

I promised Derren I wouldn’t tell you anything. Well, it wasn’t just me – there were about fifteen hundred of us. All sworn to secrecy which, to be fair, doesn’t allow me much scope to tell you about the show, but let’s have a bash anyway.

So, Derren Brown has been beguiling, bewitching and bewildering us with brash bravado and unashamed chutzpah for over twenty years offering a self-proclaimed blend of “magic, suggestion, psychology, misdirection, and showmanship” and last night at the Alex in Birmingham he certainly provided examples of all of those in equal measure. He proved himself a master of reading body language and facial ticks to an uncanny and unsettling, Sherlockian level. He sniffed out someone’s childhood accident after a few minutes of looking them over. Did he read it on their face, or did he read it on Facebook? Does he research his audience to that degree? Would it really be worth the effort? Who knows, but the results are astonishing. He drew on a member of the audience to predict the outcome of a die and coin toss all with unerring accuracy. Can I tell them this Derren? I wonder if he reads his reviews? You never know with Derren. He’s a tricksy type. Anyway, in the middle of that bit he did something truly breath-taking which made my companion swear in disbelief. I can’t tell you what it is, but it was awesome. And I mean truly awesome.

The first half closed with a routine I once saw a children’s entertainer do at Butlins’ forty years which delighted those around me but left this curmudgeonly old fart slightly disappointed. And he didn’t half stretch it out. Nonetheless it ended with another breath-taking moment I cannot tell you about. Act Two brought us back to a participant from the previous act who did something physically impossible in the darkness. After that Derren examined some objects brought by audience members from which he extrapolated extraordinarily accurate information. I know this isn’t exactly a verbatim record, but I did promise Derren. Sssssh!

Derren Brown is intriguing and fascinating and very watchable, and it has a slow pace and is punctuated with routines more suited to TV than theatre. A camera was brought onto every few moments to show us a trick. Having said that he is still the best in the country and possibly the world in his genre and that alone is good enough. It is the remarkable dedication to his craft and zen-like self-discipline which allows him with ease to single-handedly entrance and enchant fifteen hundred people for over two hours with his skill.

Though I was reminded of the Victoria Wood line about her tonsorially challenged husband the conjurer Geoff Durham, “If he’s such a good magician – why is he still bald?”

Did you predict I’d finish with that line, Derren?

Go see him!

Reviewer: Peter Kinnock

Reviewed: 7th September 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★