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REVIEW - Derren Brown - One of the best shows you'll see in your lifetime, and maybe the next!


On Tuesday, we were one of the lucky ones to attend Derren Brown at The Lowry, Salford. If you've never seen Derren live, stick it on your bucket list now (or just buy a ticket after you've read our review by Karen Ryder)

The word ‘genius’ should be sparingly used to describe the likes of Einstein, Aristotle and Mozart. However, the X Factor generation has used and abused its true meaning, often leading to the judges rising to their feet after an incredibly average audition and announcing to the masses, “That was utterly genius!”  But surely a modern-day genius list would be more along the lines of Stephen Fry, a dash of Bob Dylan, a sprinkle of Willard Wigan (Google him!), and even a spray of Banksy. And let’s not leave one of the greatest showmen ever to grace this earth off that list – drum roll please… no, not Hugh Jackman… We present to you... Mr Derren Brown.



The anticipation that fills the air at a Derren Brown show is palpable even from outside the theatre.  An eclectic mix of faithful fans permeate fascination, fear and favour towards this fastidious performer.  Whether you’ve attended a live show before or not, you will hear snippets of conversations from those who have, flooding your body with adrenalin.  I’d like to say that whether you choose to use that adrenalin as fight or flight is up to you, but the truth is, it probably isn’t.  Nothing at a Derren Brown show is ever really up to you, for he is a genius of mind manipulation, misdirection, illusion and psychology.  You can be sceptical all you like but there will be a moment when you realise that he is in charge and always will be.  The harder you try to fight it, the easier it becomes for him, so my advice is just sit back, and allow yourself to be marvelled by the master. 



Since Derren’s first TV series Mind Control, he has won Olivier’s (Something Wicked This Way Comes – 2006, and Svengali - 2012) and has received more awards and Olivier nominations than any other one-man show in theatre history.  He has had the nation stuck to their chairs, manipulated a member of the public to assassinate Stephen Fry and created a zombie apocalypse!  And this is just the tip of the iceberg into the varied CV of his work.  He is also an established and reputable painter, an author, photographer and goodness knows what else.  A truly talented man who is the real deal.  He doesn’t claim to have psychic powers – infact, he emphatically denies it.  He doesn’t use stooges, he doesn’t need to – he is that good.  The one thing he always says which makes me smile and speaks volumes as to the paradox you will find yourself in, is “I’m always honest about my dishonesty.” 



All of the ManchesterTheatres team are true Derren fans.  From the moment we watched the controversial Russian Roulette episode back on our TV screens nearly two decades ago, right up to tonight’s incredible show, Derren Brown is one of our heroes.  Between us, we’ve probably got everything he’s ever done on DVD, read his books, we’ve seen him live a number of times and some of us have even been tempted to purchase his artwork. He would definitely grab pride of place at our “Five celebs you’d invite to dinner” game.


Showman is a perfect name for this tour, as that’s exactly what Derren Brown is.  His suave sophistication, charisma and charm could have anyone eating out of the palm of his hand regardless of his trickery for he has an aura, and a hypnotic presence about him.  He is endearing with just a hint of danger.  It’s kind of irresistible.  Add into this a razor sharp wit, insane intelligence, and a humility that resonates with everyone, it’s no wonder he has complete control.  There’s a reassurance and a terror in that, and that’s the absolute joy of Derren Brown – he can make you feel opposing emotions in equal measures at exactly the same time, and you never know which one to trust.  He composes his art form with a beautiful flare, we are simply the notes he uses to complete his symphony.



What to tell you about Showman in this review?  Are you kidding me?  I’m telling you absolutely nothing!  When Mr. Brown asks you to keep schtum – you do exactly what he says! Just like J K Rowling’s Harry Potter in the West End, Derren has asked us to keep the secret so that future audiences can love his work as much. No spoilers, no forewarning and no heads up will be given here my friends.  I can however reveal that Showman will wow you, make you laugh, make you cry and make you appreciate life and love in a lip wobbling kind of way.  One thing that runs strong through any of Derren’s productions, whether it be his live shows, TV specials, or his television series, is an overriding positive life lesson or affirmation, and Showman is no exception.  He is known for sometimes teaching these in drastic and questionable ways, such as compassion in Sacrifice, or self-belief in Hero at 30’000 Feet, but the outcome is always an overwhelming emotionally charged education on humanity.  To date, my personal favourite is the stage show Miracle.  It’s so life affirming that a quick dose of that when I’m feeling blue, and my endorphins are off on a jolly, flooding my entire body with a blissful blend of ‘ahhhhhhhhhhhhs’ and ‘whoop whoops!’  However, Showman may now just have taken pride of place as the number one Derren Brown feel good experience.



It's a very personal show, for both Derren and the audience, with a huge emphasis on emotional wellbeing.  At a time when the world is living through experiences that we may not be mentally or emotionally equipped to deal with, Derren provides an incredible tonic, brings everyone together, and encourages you to connect with yourself in a way you never knew you could.  It is the most euphoric experience and one I urge you to be a part of.  Showman has heart.  It is that simple.  Yes, it will leave you baffled, leave you questioning yourself, your memory and your sanity, but the overriding feeling you will leave with is hope.  What a beautiful, and unexpected offering.  It has made me want to live my tomorrows with more kindness, more belief and more worth.  Showman is a night you’ll never forget and entertainment of the highest order.  It’s right up there with Cirque du Soleil for its wow factor and undeniable and unique skill set. This is a genuine thank you to Derren Brown for such an incredible gift and for giving me so much more than a night of brilliant entertainment. If you are lucky enough to have a ticket, we promise you, it will not just be your favourite show of the year, it’ll be one of the best things you have ever witnessed live.

Derren Brown is on at The Lowry until Saturday 16th July.

WE SCORE DERREN BROWN – 10/10 (obviously!)



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