Derren Brown SHOWMAN
Theatre Royal Newcastle
Until Saturday 17 September 2022
|Photo: Mark Douet|
Derren Brown occupies a unique space in British entertainment. Illusionist, hypnotist and master of psychological manipulation, he has been producing award-winning TV events and hugely successful stage shows for over 20 years. SHOWMAN is a thematically-linked entertainment of audience interaction, hypnosis and clever illusions. With this ingeniously constructed show, the charismatic performer confirms why he is at the very top of his field.
I must start by saying that we have been asked to avoid revealing any of the actual content of the show. This presents a challenge to any reviewer, of course, but there is a reason why spoilers are so named, and it makes sense to keep the secrets of this show for the same reason Harry Potter and The Cursed Child audiences are asked to do so.
Derren Brown is a very clever man. He knows that delivering a high level of entertainment is the key to making the most of his exceptional talents. To that end, he has worked with Olivier Award-winning actor and writer, Andy Nyman, and ex-magician and actor, now writer and producer, Andrew O’Connor to develop this highly polished and consistently engaging vehicle.
The set, by Simon Higlett, lends an air of mystery and gravitas to the performance. Charlie Morgan-Jones’ lighting designs are an integral part of the piece, edgy and never mundane. The combination of the two elements gives the stage the feeling of a place where magic could happen. And, in a sense, it does.
In terms of content, it is no spoiler to say that it includes hypnosis, and mental manipulation of on-stage volunteers and the audience. The experience of a fellow reviewer made it clear the effect of the hypnosis was very real. This reviewer was also subject to thought manipulation at one point, with no idea how that was achieved. Brown also pays tribute to some of the pioneers in his field in a segment combining hypnosis and traditional magic. And there is a theme, but it would be unhelpful to reveal it.
Brown, tieless in a dark suit, has unquestionable presence, quietly theatrical rather than brash. With no apparent effort, he holds the stage with his personality, engaging 1100 people for two and a half hours, which is no mean feat. Though he is often funny, his humour is wry and gentle rather than knockabout. His interaction with audience members is kindly rather than demeaning or disparaging. He also has serious points to make in the manner of a life coach, which make the evening a contemplative one rather than merely diverting.
Brown makes no pretence to have magical powers, rather spending his life unmasking such fraudulent practices. The show, nonetheless, has a mystical quality and a weightiness unusual in such performances.
All of this makes for a consistently absorbing and intriguing evening. The audience is left with more to think about than just, “How on earth did he do that?”
The essence of the evening though is entertainment, and this is a beautifully produced, constantly surprising and hugely enjoyable show. Brown triumphantly demonstrates that he is indeed a showman, par excellence.
Review: Jonathan Cash
Derren Brown: Showman plays at Newcastle Theatre Royal on Tuesday 13 – Saturday 17 September 2022. Tickets are priced from £20.00 and can be purchased at www.theatreroyal.co.uk or from the Theatre Royal Box Office on 0191 232 7010.