Derren Brown: master of illusion
How would you describe Derren Brown? “Master of psychological illusion” is how he’s billed ahead of his show at the BIC Windsor Hall on Friday and Saturday. Prepare to have your mind bent like a boomerang as the mysterious showman unveils his new show, Infamous.
This is his sixth stage show since 2003. Derren has toured every year and been watched by an estimated audience of two million people. Two of his shows, Something Wicked This Way Comes as well as Svengali, earned him Olivier awards.
Touring is what he likes best, he says: “Absolutely. It’s still my favourite thing to do. Everything from the writing of the show to the actual performing and touring is a huge delight.
“I enjoy the stage shows more than anything else. Live on stage is the best place for what I do. It’s unpredictable, and the audience knows there is no possibility of judicious editing."
As he’s said in the past, “I am often dishonest in my techniques but I’m always honest about my dishonesty”.
For the past 13 years, Derren has created television and stage performances that have gained him as many detractors as admirers.
His most recent TV specials Apocalypse and Fear & Faith caused a lot of controversy and speculation.
“It’s nice that the shows are very well received. I’m used to them also provoking their share of negative or sceptical reactions from some quarters, anything from ‘it’s all fake’ to ‘it’s irresponsible and he shouldn’t be doing it’,” says Derren, 42.
“I see it as an inevitable kind of tax I pay for doing something that might be very ambitious.
“It’s only saddening when I see people – usually on Twitter – wrongly dismissing something that happened for real as fake and feeling insulted rather than letting themselves enjoy it.
“But what are you going to do? You could go mad trying to please everyone.”
The new Infamous tour, playing 81 dates across the UK including a two-month London season, reunites this “dark manipulator of magic and mind control” with close collaborator and friend, actor and writer Andy Nyman.
Nyman has worked on all of Brown’s tours, except his most recent one, Svengali, last year.
“We’ve worked together on all the shows apart from Svengali. And Andy was my co-writer for many years of television shows. Now we’ve joined forces again, we’re very eager to make this show feel different.
“There was something of a template we followed with all the shows, which worked very well. It’s rather exciting and scary leaving that behind. This one should certainly have a different tone, and will mix things up a bit for those who have seen the others on TV or live.”
His mesmerising TV work has gained him both admirers and detractors. Trying to break into the US would seem a natural progression, but he’ll only do it on his terms.
“I very nearly did an American series, but they wanted to turn it into something that didn’t sit well into what I wanted it to be,” he says.
Derren Brown is a man who knows his own mind as well as other people’s.