Writer: Derren Brown and Andy Nyman
Director: Andy Nyman
Reviewer: Lou Flaxman
Derren Brown, a regular on our televisions for over ten years and self-proclaimed master of ‘magic, suggestion, psychology, misdirection and showmanship’, returns to the West End with his latest stage show, ‘Infamous’. Due to a promise that I- like all audience members- have made, I am unable to disclose any information about what happened in the show. So, without giving anything away… here goes.
Derren Brown in recent years has moved away from the kind of showy street magic that was so popular in the naughties and has begun to focus more on psychology. His recent television programs have examined behavioral trends and the ways in which these patterns of human behaviour predetermine the decisions that we make and the way our lives unfold. He has come to be interested in the interruption and manipulation of these patterns.
Of course, a show that focuses only on these ideas would be more of a lecture (which, incidentally, I would love) than a West End magic show, so Infamous is a fusion of psychology – examples of human predictability, for example— with the smoke and mirrors of his mind-bending trickery.
Derren Brown’s previous stage shows have often featured overarching concepts which influence the look and feel of the show, for example the Olivier Award-winning Svengali, which used the aesthetic and ideas of Victorian trickery and parlour toys. ‘Infamous’, however, is a much more stripped down and confessional production.
He talks a lot about coming out as gay and his struggles with fitting in at school as a boy. This is the ‘real’ Derren, hair and goatee gone, sat on a chair, telling us about his life. This chimes well with his ‘explanations’ of how he does his tricks and his love of debunking fraudulent mind-readers who claim to have supernatural powers, but works less well with the elements of the show that are unashamedly showy.
That being said, those out for the kind of shocks and thrills that we are accustomed to seeing from Derren Brown won’t be disappointed. There are plenty of ‘how on Earth did he do that??’ moments and some fabulously unexpected twists and turns.
Some of the more conventional segments of the show feature tricks that many will have seen either Derren, or other illusionists, perform before, but what keeps Derren Brown a head and shoulders above his peers is his stage presence. His combination of ease and quick-wittedness with what feels like genuine personal investment in the outcome of every trick is utterly enthralling and you can feel that the whole audience is on his side (as much as he lets you be) from start to finish.
While it is thrilling to watch illusions and tricks on television, there is nothing quite like seeing it done in front of you. Derren handles the raw unpredictability of a live audience with a charisma and humility that is truly exceptional. And though not a game-changing show, Derren delivers an evening of brilliant entertainment that is satisfying, baffling and incisively intelligent in equal measure and all at the same time.