Derren Brown

‘This has to remain a secret.’ Derren Brown: Infamous.

InfamousRight, so I first off apologise in advance for what I am sure will be a completely nonsensical and just generally irritating review of Derren Brown’s most recent stage show, Infamous. Thing is I only got back from Southend-on-Sea at about two o’clock in the morning, so if I sound frazzled that is because I very much am. Frazzled and amazed. I have only seen Brown once before at his previous show Svengali and, while I was left very much impressed, I have to say it was nothing on what I saw last night. And I have to say it now – if you haven’t seen one of the shows, Derren says it is imperative that their contents remain a secret, and therefore while I can tell you what I think, I can in no way spoil the fun of future viewers with a blow by blow account of what I saw. So, what follows is likely to be extremely short and baseless, very much unlike the show itself. Which, needless to say, was epic.

The show, rather bizarrely however, didn’t actually feel to me as though it started as it meant to go on. In fact, while I was so positive in my intro, I feel I should say that I was possibly somewhat disappointed with the beginning (I am so sorry, Derren). But yet, I wish to redeem myself by saying I’m sure that was down to the audience more than Derren himself. As much, if not all, of the show relies on his careful and skilled showmanship, it seems clear and fair enough to me that the audience should want to be a) involved and b) reasonably happy to go along with things. So, I can’t help but feel a bit of a grump that our particular audience, however lovely I’m sure they are, didn’t seem to be much of either as the show started. I don’t expect 1800 sycophants, but you know, a little bit of playing along might be nice. But luckily, after a rocky half hour, the show really got started as in typical Derren fashion, his antics accelerated gradually and became grander and grander by the minute.

Therefore, by the time the bell rang for the interval, I have to say I was amazed – the audience which had been so previously difficult had started to play along and stood frozen, astounded by just what he was capable of. Then the second half was just set to get all the more exciting. There were conversations with spirits, frankly impossible sleight-of-hand and just generally a far more open and accepting atmosphere – rather bizarrely really, especially considering some of the terrifying stuff that he got up to. I am going to completely agree with the other reviews that I read in anticipation of the show which declare this to be a far more ‘stripped-down’ version of his previous shows, and most certainly a lot darker than usual. It felt almost austere, yet still remained conversational, in the usual light-hearted tone of Derren Brown. Ok, that shouldn’t make sense, but he was able to make even some of the darkest and most sinister manipulations and mind control still remain reasonably cheery, another major skill of his.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that Derren is just completely and overwhelmingly talented. Ridiculously so. If I could do even half of one of his tricks, I’d be very content. He is self-effacing, charming and annoyingly intelligent. And yet whilst what he is able to do on stage should be absolutely terrifying, the audience still feels secure. But I reckon the main thing that has to be taken from the show is actually, for me, that it is the simpler things that are actually more memorable and enjoyable. I guess my issue with the first half was that, to me, it felt like a bit of a mash-up of everything he’d done in previous shows. We, as an audience, already get by now that he is practically able to see into people’s minds and pick out what they are thinking. For God’s sake, he predicted national lottery numbers, we would expect that he would be quite good at prediction and ‘mind-reading’ by now. Therefore, while everything he executed was skillful, I felt that it was based a lot on slightly upgraded versions of what he had achieved before, in a slightly plausibly different format.

However, I was astounded when I worked out that actually, this needed to happen. As an audience, we needed the excitement to continue to grow as the show continued, meaning that what had started out as polite applause at the beginning soon turned into rapturous adoration as the show continued… I’m amazed at just how skillful he is at even just commanding people’s emotions for over two hours. Amazing. And thus, I feel that I can forgive the first half of the first half (there must be a better way of saying that) as what it led up to, while outwardly appearing to be far simpler trickwise, became all the more outrageously shocking and generally delicious. It was fabulous, emotional and just downright smart. And as you can probably tell, I’m really struggling not to tell you what happened! But it has to remain a secret, even if you have to wait for the DVD, just do, you will be astounded, amazed, and quite possibly inspired to learn The National Bus Timetable off by heart.

Or, possibly, Of Mice and Men in my own case.