Mystifying magic shows Derren Brown has still got new tricks

Reviewing a Derren Brown show isn’t easy - particularly when he implores you not to spoil any tricks for others.

Derren Brown's 'Showman'
Derren Brown's 'Showman'

But his latest masterpiece ‘Showman’ is a triumph in typical style from the mystifying first few seconds to the astonishing end, writes Lewis Cox.

It carries all the familiar hallmarks of entertainment’s most successful and loved magician and psychological master.

In 'Showman', Brown is exactly that. He is not just a magician, hypnotist and mind control supremo - albeit his tricks are mind-boggling - he is an elite performer.

His humour, that sharp, edgy wit that fans and onlookers have enjoyed over the last two decades can never be underestimated. Brown, now 50, is sharp as a tack.

The London-born star acknowledges himself in his programme notes that, after 20 years as a regular on our stage and screen, he has been in work longer than many of his fans have been alive.

We've seen him entrance a nation on their sofas through television, play Russian Roulette live, control minds to lead to stooge heists, apocalypses, plane disasters and even murders. But it is clear that Brown is at his best on stage.

And his shows and work never grow tired. He possesses that incredibly rare and enviable quality to stay fresh and unique. Familiar, yet forever surprising.

The audience participation in his work - yes, even in a Covid-19 world of facemasks for volunteers on stage - is second to none.

Derren Brown's 'Showman'

He had the Alexandra Theatre audience on opening night in Birmingham in the palm of his hand.

Some tricks with everyday items were simple - not in working them out (who knows!) - but in process. They build up to something bigger and that’s the beauty of Brown’s work.

Some will leave you scratching your head during the show and when you leave for home into the night.

The mystique is electric. His power of suggestion is unparalleled. There are spine-tingling moments the audience of 1,500 people will gasp as one and wonder in incredulity - see the finale…WOW.

But a slightly subtle, underlying theme of Brown’s latest stage show - his first in the UK since 2018 after a couple of hugely successful Netflix hits and a Broadway debut - is the impact of the pandemic.

There are personal and poignant moments, reminding you that, somehow, this magical and mystic man is human too.

Derren Brown's 'Showman'

He has never really hid that; one of Brown’s finest qualities is his awareness and handling of public affairs.

But this show told a story of relationships, personal tales beyond the sharp suit, polished act and spellbinding skills.

He brings each and every audience member together, in awe, amazement as well as emotion in this two-and-a-half hour show, which includes a 30 minute interval. He speaks not only of his personal relations, but challenges those of the audience.

Unfortunately, as much as I want to tell you all about precious details of truly unbelievable tricks - I can’t!

So you will just have to go to see him yourself. Brown is in Birmingham until Saturday night and the tour features some 250 dates, running around the country until next October.

Don’t fear, if you aren’t keen on the limelight or don’t fancy being one of Brown’s volunteers or ‘mind programmed participants’, you don’t have to. He only invites on stage those willing to take part - so don’t let that put you off.

If you are a believer in his amazing qualities, you will have an amazing night. If you are a little cynical or even entirely nonplussed by psychic skills and mind control - you will still be entertained in the journey and storylines.

And remember - “That’s life”.

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