An old wooden chair lies at the epicentre of the stage, as a theatre’s audience prepares for a whirlwind of tricks and illusions. The stage’s dim lights are dampened even further by the wafting dry ice, while a battered wooden floor and a decaying stone backdrop make up the chair’s surroundings.
Minimalist has never been a word used to describe Derren Brown, the English illusionist. The 43-year-old is a man of such showmanship and bravado that he is willing to predict the lottery numbers live on TV, as well as literally glue viewers to their seats via their television sets.
However, in his latest show, Infamous, Brown has cast the luxury of a high-spec stage and jaw-dropping props to one side, instead focusing on the act itself.
He’s also discarded his trademark look, opting to shave off his hair and goatee, and replaced his customary all-black attire with a grey waistcoat and rolled up shirt sleeves.
Brown has cut out any distraction the audience’s eyes could be averted to. There is no need for anything on stage apart from his presence, and with a multitude of tricks to squeeze into just under three hours, there isn’t any time either.
Much like his previous live shows and TV specials, Brown performs card tricks, mind reading and physical illusions, but Infamous isn’t about focusing on the old. It ushers in a number of new tricks that revolve around complex maths, memory tests, and oddly, rubix cubes.
Setting himself apart from his peers, Brown demonstrates that while he can mix it with the best mentalists and illusionists in the game, he aims to showcase the natural abilities he has possessed from his youth.
Replaying the gimmicks he would practice as an early teenager, this time in front of a far larger audience, there is a charm to the light-hearted parts of the night that escapes Brown’s rivals.
He dispels the belief in mediumship, telepathy, and the majority his act throughout the show.
Stating that he is not a magician, and holds no special powers, Brown constantly reminds the audience that the amazing feats they see him perform are the result of practice, reading tells, and subconsciously informing the unknowing punters of what they will do.
If he is not a mind reader, and doesn’t possess magical powers, the only answer to the questions posed by his mind-bending performance is that Brown is a hard-working, witty, charming performer, who may be the best stage act in modern time.