Derren Brown - Showman

The Alexandra Theatre


If Derren Brown did car sales, he would probably be the best car salesperson there is. This internationally renowned illusionist has spent practically his entire adult life exploring the world of magic, illusion, and plain old gullible human nature. It’s a study that has reaped huge rewards for him in a world of entertainment where there is little competition for this kind of a stage show, at least in this country.

Simply called Showman, this newly crafted performance weaves together a history lesson of mentalist and magic stage acts of the past, with an injection of sentimental pathos and Browns wry humour. He sets to replicate some of the illusions of yesteryear, all with his unique twist of charm and guile.

There are clearly two audiences for Browns work, the ones that want to be amazed and those that want to unravel the mechanics, either way you will be entertained.

Unlike television where the edit can hide a multitude of errors, live theatre is a far more exposed and unforgiving affair. Not everything goes to plan and that’s where Brown perhaps relies upon his `once upon time’ Legal training, to expertly negotiate the void at those times when something does not go quite to plan. Of course this is magic and sometimes the error is part of the setup. It’s a great ploy and Brown is a master at delivering it.

We are asked not to reveal anything of the show which of course we dutifully do. This is yet again another layer of mystique that ensures the illusion remains on stage and unscrutinised. The stage also provides the perfect cover for a multitude of deceptions and misdirection’s and whilst the believers will kindly ignore the mechanics, the sceptics will be looking for the joins. If there any to be had, they are very hard to spot.

Thankfully in the nearly two hour long show there is just enough to baffle the hardened doubter into agonising frustration and enthral the rest to cheers and applause. And that’s of course is how it should be. Brown is the master and we are his puppets.

The second act of Showman, uniquely exploits the emotional energy of the audience with Browns hushed tones of a Psychic, recounting poignant personal memories and weaving them seamlessly into his act. He encourages the audience to do the same and thereby tapping into our collected heart. There is of course a great deal of audience participation and whilst the logistics of staging that, sometimes derails the flow, it all adds to a sense of  'we are all in this together' Brown is not your friend though, but the leader and so absolutely no word or action can be trusted.

We all possess some of the skills that Brown has made his lifetime work. Intuition, observation, deception even. He taps into our empathy and makes childish believers of the hardened sceptic that the magic is truly real.

So put aside your doubts and scrutiny and let the Showman take you on a journey of mesmerising delight.

 Just don’t buy a second hand car from him!

To 30-10-21.

Jeff Grant


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