Derren Brown turns faith healer for this remarkable new show
Mentalist, hypnotist, trickster, beloved telly entertainer and all-round psychological magician Derren Brown has made it clear that he doesn’t want journalists spilling the beans as to the content of new show ‘Miracle’. And I don’t want to do anything that’ll bring the wrath of his wizardly powers down upon me. But hopefully I can avoid pseudo-sorcerous vengeance by pointing out that Brown did a documentary a couple of years back about evangelical faith healers in the US, and that the second half of ‘Miracle’ sees him explore similar turf.
Although atheist Brown would be the first to say that there is no such thing as the supernatural, that makes some of what he achieves even more remarkable and troubling. Even if he strongly suggests it’s all in the mind, is there something ethically dubious about dabbling in something as apparently life-changing as healing powers simply for entertainment? What happens in the second half of ‘Miracle’ is genuinely extraordinary, and never explained. And it also feels slightly disconcerting that it’s substantially happening for no reason deeper than our amusement and Brown’s enrichment. That’s not a criticism, though – it’s an angle thoroughly played up by the show (which is co-written with its directors, Andy Nyman and Andrew O’Connor). We’re nominally ‘in on it’, but really how much more clued up are we than the Southern congregations we’re shown brief clips of? I suppose I can’t really say much more, but ultimately there is a generosity of spirit underpinning the show that counters its intentional cynicism.
If anything an excess of generosity is the slight problem with ‘Miracle’. The first half is slickly staged and shows off Brown’s funny, waspish showman persona to a tee, but although I have no idea how he does any of what he does in it, it all feels a bit low key and parlour-game-ish. It’s important to warm an audience up and one suspects giving punters value for money is a factor too, but there is a clear discrepancy in OMFG factor between the night’s two halves. But this certainly doesn’t detract from that jaw-dropping exploration of faith healing. This was my first time seeing Derren Brown live – and now I’m a believer.
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