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Theatre Review: Derren Brown

15 June 22 words: Natalie Owen

The multi-award winning master of mind control and illusion, Derren Brown is back in Nottingham with Showman, his first new live show for six years…

photo: Mark Douet

Derren Brown kicked off his show at the Theatre Royal Nottingham on Tuesday 14 June with a mesmerizing performance.

Without leaking any secrets from what can only be described as a fascinating and wonderful night of tricks and performances from the very talented Derren Brown. As an audience we are all asked to keep the content of his hugely successful show a closely-guarded secret, making this review a little more challenging to write. But, having said that, without discussing the actual content of the show, there is still plenty to report.

Breaking the past trend of what can only be described a stereotypical notion of past theatrical acts that  involving the ‘swinging of a watch on a chain’ to hypnotize unsuspecting ‘volunteers’’ to perform outrageous and sometimes humiliating acts; Derren’s live shows have won him two prestigious Olivier Awards over the years – for Something Wicked This Way Comes (2006) and Svengali (2012) and he has received more Olivier nominations and wins than any other one-man show in theatre history. He has played to sold-out houses across the country every year since 2003 to over 1.6 million people. This is in addition to his edge of the seat TV specials such as Russian Roulette (2003) and Sacrifice (2018).

The auditorium is in the palm of Derren’s hands, hanging onto his every word

Showman will, no doubt, be yet another award winning performance as his show draws deeply upon personal experiences, both for Brown and for his audience. It offers a sense of wellbeing throughout his mind-blowing ‘wizardry’ acts that seem to connect everyone together. After spending a long time in lockdown, this show feels to be what everybody needs right now to reflect upon. Derren proposes that the show explores the themes of those tough times and how they can feel isolating but tend to, in fact, bring us closer together. As a result, the heart of the show focuses on what is actually important.

Showman starts with everyone in the theatre being asked to keep their phones on, but on silent, creating a stir of excitement within the audience. Not knowing what will happen next is what you will constantly question throughout the entire performance. As ordinary members of the public take the stage to help with Derren’s acts they won’t realize they are about to become integral roles in such a complex and intelligent show.

Throughout the night, the auditorium is in the palm of Derren’s hands, hanging onto his every word, as the audience tries to catch Derren out by second guessing him, which doesn’t seem to happen, as gasps of awe are heard throughout the theatre after each trick and performance. Derren’s witty charm has the audience laughing and at times even crying. Showman truly is a roller-coaster of emotions.

By the end of the evening it will be impossible not to feel uplifted as well as completely baffled. Derren leaves you questioning your memory, reality and what matters most in life.

If you have tickets to the show, keep an eye on Derren’s social media as he may ask you to bring along something to the show …

Showman is at the Theatre Royal Nottingham from Tuesday 14 to Saturday 18 June 2022

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