Review - Derren Brown: Underground at the Playhouse Theatre
I’m not allowed to tell you anything Derren Brown did last night, it’s a secret. Here is what I can divulge: he is the most charismatic and talented worker of stage and audience there is.
You’ve likely crossed Brown during one of his television specials in which he claims to ‘predicts the lottery’ or ‘sticks the nation to their chairs’. Implausible, right? It’s easy to criticise his techniques when he’s behind a screen, but on stage, before your very eyes, the feats he reaches are truly astonishing.
Brown is a veteran of the stage now, with six full-length stage shows under his belt. In that time, not only has he been able to master his art - psychological manipulation - but also a fantastic showman with razor-sharp wit, and he is a very convincing actor. Underground is a greatest hits show for the illusionist, a show which he tried out at the intimate Charing Cross Theatre, and then took across the Atlantic as he made his American theatre debut.
So, fans of Derren Brown (who, me?), be warned: this is a best-of show. If you’ve seen his previous specials on television, you’ve seen these tricks before. They tie together with a new narrative (that’s also a secret), but by and large, it’s vintage Brown.
That’s not to take anything away from what he’s performing, which is astounding. Part of Brown’s act is his uncanny ability to make you think he’s doing the guessing work, though he is in complete control of the night, and his subjects (victims?) from the off. His use of techniques from sleight of hand to big-screen projections allow him to conjure up tricks that will leave you catching flies in your mouth, no matter how many times you’ve seen him.
To get back into the swing of things, I did revisit one of Brown’s previous stage shows. This did mean, however, I was on the look out for the little things. As certain tricks began, I knew the pay-off, and was looking for the subtle hints that would give it away. Some of you might get a kick from that, and by all means do it. But if your memory is a little hazier, I would suggest keeping it that way. For this spectacle to pack a proper punch, the element of surprise really is key.
That’s not to say every evening will be a carbon copy. It’s a show that relies so highly on audience participation, you will experience a slightly different show every night. But night after night, Brown will nail this show, tapping into the minds of whoever is before him, reading minds and pulling of the seemingly impossible.
A word too must go to the show’s directors Andrew O’Connor and Andy Nyman, who make keep this well-oiled machine running smoothly throughout, lulling the audience into Derren’s trap perfectly. By the end of the evening, you feel cheated. What he has been able to pull of shouldn't be possible, but you've just witnessed it.
Take this opportunity to see this master manipulator enjoy performing some of his favourite tricks. Go and enjoy a truly unique evening of spectacle and awe. You find it impossible to be disappointed, but maybe that’s just another manipulation (I wouldn't put it past him).
Derren Brown Underground Tickets are available now.