DERREN BROWN: SHOWMAN | Woking, New Victoria Theatre

“And if you’re reviewing, please don’t tell anybody about anything that happens in the show,” says mentalism superstar Derren Brown, performing his first live show since his award-winning run on Broadway 2019-2020, prior to the pandemic. Brown actually repeats this plea several times during the show. It’s no spoiler to reveal that this new live show — his tenth — might actually be his best yet.

Brown explains in the programme and elsewhere that this show is his most personal. But the show’s themes of Covid, family, and memories are universal. On social media, Brown has invited all audience members to bring a little treasured keepsake with them: certain audience members are invited onto stage with their items.

One might think that, developing a show during Covid, Brown would favour a back-to-basics, no-frills tour. True to the title, the complete opposite is true. The set (Simon Higlett) suggests a grand gothic hall, replete with ornate flooring and a giant, threatening door, as well as expert lighting (Charlie Morgan Jones) and video design (Simon Wainwright) that gives us a truly theatrical experience from beginning to end. Also true to the title, the show goes back to Brown’s early roots as a magician, with some set pieces that are closer to Victorian stage illusions than mindreading.

As ever, the show also carries a sinister edge about the ease with which we can all be manipulated. Then again, as James Randi famously stated, “Magicians are the most honest people in the world: They tell you they’re going to fool you, and then they do it.” And then they do it.

Derren Brown: Showman is touring the UK 4 March – 29 October 2022.

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