Derren Brown: Infamous – Review – Bradford Alhambra

derren brown

Derren Brown: Infamous – Review

Bradford Alhambra, May 2013

by Mathew Gillings

Asking someone to define the dynamic Derren Brown is difficult. He’s previously been labelled as a magician or a hypnotist. He’s also a mentalist and illusionist. But none of these tags quite do justice to his wide spectrum. He is a great hybrid of many skills and traits that only a few are lucky enough to possess. His friendly demeanour makes him the ultimate performer. To say he’s an eccentric character is an understatement. He is characterised by humour, showmanship, skill and charm. There’s no doubting his innate ability to cast a spell of mystery over the audience. His latest show, Infamous, is truly astounding.

Photo by Seamus Ryan

Photo by Seamus Ryan

Brown’s impressive career starts at university, where he begins performing close-up magic in bars and restaurants. By 1992, he starts his own stage show. Before long he receives an approach from Channel 4, who ask him to develop a mind-reading programme. Since then, Brown has worked closely with several writers and directors. He produces dozens of television and stage shows. For Infamous, Brown teams up once again with his long-term collaborator Andy Nyman. Together, the two of them are unbeatable in this industry.

“The majority are ready and willing to get involved”

Guests are warned that the show isn’t appropriate for children under twelve years old. But nothing could prepare us for what we actually encounter. Brown constantly asks the audience throughout the show to refrain from sharing spoilers with friends. Not least because the whole performance is so carefully planned. Brown’s head must be buzzing with thoughts and ideas as he takes us on a surreal journey.

Audience participation is a big part of Brown’s show. Not only does this reduce the gap between the audience and performer, but it allows him to highlight the fact that no stooges are used in his production. Everything within those four walls is completely legitimate. He combines misdirection, trickery, and manipulation techniques to form one fantastic performance. In order to show its legitimacy, Brown uses frisbees to select his participants. Some people avoided their flight path, but the majority are ready and willing to get involved. Working with Derren Brown on stage is, of course, a unique experience that only a few are lucky enough to have.

“The whole experience seem so personal”

Photo by Seamus Ryan

Photo by Seamus Ryan

Brown’s general aura is admirable. I can’t imagine anyone showing any signs of dislike towards him. He appears to be a genuine, humorous, kind-hearted soul, shaking everyone’s hand and welcoming them to the stage personally. He runs around the audience and makes the whole experience seem so personal.

The theatre holds almost 1500 guests. Brown makes it feel that the performance is just for you. However, the friendly attitude isn’t just for the stage. Derren Brown meets guests, poses for photographs, and signs autographs at the stage door after a performance. Outside, guests simply have to tell Brown which camera to look for. He is happy enough to quickly sign and pose. It is clear that Derren Brown values his audience, and I’m sure the short conversations throughout the performance, and by the stage door, are remembered for years to come.

Derren Brown is, quite simply, a fantastic performer. He manages to charm the audience through breathtaking illusions. If all else fails and the labels fall down, he’s a genuine, friendly gentleman who is willing to acknowledge his fans. Infamous is a magical show, and probably quite unlike anything I have seen before. As the audience take to their feet and gave Derren Brown a standing ovation, there is just one question on everyone’s mind. How on earth does he do it?



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