Tag Archives: Derren Brown

Tricks and Treats


The Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham, Tuesday 26th October, 2021

I am presented with the almost impossible task of reviewing a show about which I may reveal no details.  Yes, Derren Brown is back on the road with this latest production of mind-boggling tricks.  I will say he gives us plenty to think about.

You can expect commonplace elements of a magician’s art: playing cards, coins, dice, but Brown uses them in original ways…

Written by Brown, Andrew O’Connor and the mastermind that is Andy Nyman, the show has a through-line on which everything else hangs — but I can’t say what that is. 

If you’ve been to a Derren Brown show before, you’ll know the pains he goes to in order to select participants from the audience at random, or by whittling us down to the willing and most susceptible.  You’ll know a camera operator will stalk the stage, so that close magic is thrown large, projected onto the backdrop so we can all see (and marvel).

You can’t help trying to suss out what he’s doing, how he reads people, their body language, their ‘tells’… But you won’t see what’s coming, no matter how clever you think you are.  Brown is always the cleverest person in the room (unless the aforementioned Mr Nyman is present!).

All in all, the show is intriguing, puzzling, amusing, amazing, surprising, and surprisingly moving.  I well up at one point, even though what’s going on is nothing to do with me.

Brown and his team aim to unite us in a shared experience, and remind us of our common humanity, and yet the man himself comes off as something ‘other’, something apart from the rest of ‘us’, largely because of his special skill set, and that’s rather sad.

But you come away, marvelling at his brilliance, revelling in the thrill of his manipulations, and perhaps just a little more appreciative of what you have and whom you love.



The Showman himself, Derren Brown (Photo: Lawrence Hyne)

Infamy, Infamy!


Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton, Wednesday 7th May, 2014


It’s almost impossible to review a show without mentioning any of its content but I’ll give it a go. It’s also difficult to label Derren Brown. Is he an illusionist? A magician? He states clearly he’s not a psychic or imbued with any supernatural powers (like everyone else, then). I shall call him an entertainer and what Brown does, in his inimitable way, is entertain.

Tension is rife in the packed auditorium and it doesn’t let up. At any second, anything might happen and – worst of all – the spotlight of attention might land on us. In the event, Brown is very kind to his victims/volunteers, with a slightly mocking approach, and you get the impression that those who do participate are not uncomfortable or embarrassed. Even so, I am relieved and yet somehow disappointed when it’s not me. Odd.

The evening is filled with a range of stunts, some on a grander scale than others, and with each one you try to work out what he’s doing and how he pulls it off. I think I’ve fathomed one of the tricks but I could be wrong. The point is, it doesn’t matter if you can work out what he’s doing (you won’t). The point is you spend a couple of hours being entertained by this extraordinary man who dazzles and confounds us with his feats of mental agility and his powers of perception.

It’s a celebration of the capabilities of the human brain. Brown demonstrates some of the commonalities of human experience while setting himself apart as a singular example of the species. Mind-blowing.


Mind Bender

Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton, Tuesday 1st May, 2012

Derren Brown returns with his latest evening of wonders and mind games. I am trying not to mention anything specifically having entered into a kind of Satanic pact to keep it all secret. Much of what happens is what you’d expect: the random selection of participants from the audience (I won’t call them volunteers. Victims, perhaps) the spiel and the patter, the mockery, and the urbane charm of the man. There are also surprises aplenty, baffling and delightful. And creepy.

There are moments of absolute terror – when you think you might be chosen to take part. These are followed by moments of disappointment when you get over your relief of not being selected. It’s a curious thing.

What you must never do is doubt that the master showman is in control of everything. In some ways the audience is performing for him. He influences responses, manipulates movement and out-thinks us at every turn. He takes great pains to claim there is nothing supernatural or psychic or extra sensory about his act but you’re never sure how he does what he does. Or indeed what it is he’s actually doing. How does he know? You begin to see how things like mass hysteria and religious fervour can be induced in a crowd, how ‘miracles’ can be faked and how faith healing ‘works’.

It all makes for an entertaining, exciting and bamboozling evening of marvels. If I was Derren Brown I would be even smugger than he at times appears.