Note: this review was of the show's run in London's West End.
‘We’re all trapped inside our own heads,’ states Derren Brown at the top of his latest show. Disappointing, eh? Who wouldn’t want to take a peek into Derren’s mind and discover his methods? And in ‘Infamous’ – which sees Brown writing with regular collaborator Andy Nyman again after 2011’s solo ‘Svengali’ – there are plenty of astonishing acts of ‘mind-reading’ to leave you befuddled.
Of course, as with any Derren Brown gig (or magic show in general), we can’t reveal exactly what happens here. But we can say that ‘Infamous’ is a funnier, more personal and less creepy show than Brown’s previous offerings, and features mind-boggling memory feats, a lot of super-accurate ‘guesswork’ and the odd splatter of blood.
Sat on a single stool in the middle of a disused-theatre set (think ‘Dragon’s Den’ minus the wads of cash), the newly slapheaded Brown begins with some simple, but effective pieces of telepathy. From there, the show slowly builds in scale and impressiveness to a spectacular multi-illusion finale that constantly exceeds itself.
‘Infamous’ is a masterclass in presentation. The key to all of Brown’s tricks (and they are just tricks) is the set-up and atmosphere, and allowing the audience to decide whether the method is really reading body language and predicting behaviour, or in fact something more simple. One illusion in the first half is effectively repeated in the second, but by repackaging it with a more sombre environment and subject matter, it’s far more powerful and emotional.
Perhaps that’s Brown’s biggest trick of all; he’s not making conjuring seem trendy or cool, he’s making it not feel like a magic show at all.
By Ben Williams