Leaving a Derren Brown show is very similar to waking from a strange, unexpected dream. You desperately try to grasp the tiny details as you pass through the exit’s heavy cigarette smoke and back out into reality. Or, as the mentalist points out, 'what you perceive to be reality.' You’ve seen all his television specials, you were glued to your chair in 2009 and equally gripped when he played Russian roulette, but does his latest live show, Underground, still retain its mind-blowing quality? In short, yes. It is magnificent.
The lights dim at the beginning of the show. After a brief safety warning about the show causing headaches the audience are treated to humour directed at their sheep-like tendencies and sub-conscious thinking. They read out loud, 'I will not read something out loud, simply because I am told to. While the show is shrouded in secrecy, it wouldn’t be a spoiler to say that Derren Brown is a master of mis-direction, and a human lie detector. However, a large part of his appeal comes from his self-deprecating comedy. Throughout Underground, the illusionist explains the many decisions and events that have shaped his life. For example, until the age of 35, Derren Brown couldn’t admit to himself that he was gay. Instead he tried to trick himself out of it. These candid, intimate stories pull the audience in and act as a wonderful tool for the constant mis-direction featuring throughout.
Modern magicians like Dynamo and David Blane shroud themselves in an enigmatic veil of complete mystery. One of the many reasons why Derren Brown’s appeal is so broad is perhaps because he destroys any illusions that what he does is unexplainable. He simply portrays himself as a learned-genius. As he says in the show 'I’ll be honest about my dishonesty.' While his grandfather was a magician, a detail drawn upon regularly, Brown himself casts the m-word aside and instead opts for the more grown up version: illusionist.
The Underground tour has been correctly described as Derren Brown’s greatest hits. It brings with it the familiarity of his television specials and showcases them through a unique, re-invented lens. Three components seem to make up the show: mis-direction, expert psychological inference and subliminal messaging. Each aspect is executed expertly and unexpectedly.
As the grand finale was unveiled, an emotionally exhausted audience rose to their feet to applaud. It might have been another of his mind-control tricks but every person present in Bournemouth’s prestigious Pavilion theatre felt compelled to stand. On their lips was the phrase, 'how on earth did he do that?' Furthermore, the audience was also filled with the the thought that nobody is more deserving of the ovation. At every single stop on the Underground tour Brown has revealed his show-stopping finale with only a fraction of the smugness which he would be entitled to, in front of capacity crowds, all eager to be on their feet to show their appreciation.
For details of Derren Brown's current shows and television work, visit his website: