Derren Brown: Underground

Derren Brown: Underground
Derren Brown: Underground
Edinburgh Playhouse
August 14th & 15th, 2017

by Bernie C Byrnes

Direct from its sell-out London run, Derren Brown: Underground is the latest stage show from the multi-award winning master of psychological illusion. A fusion of ‘magic, suggestion, psychology, misdirection and showmanship’, Underground is Brown’s collection of his favourite bits from the past 14 years.

The stunts in the show are a mixture of suggestion, covert hypnosis, magic disguised as psychology, psychology disguised as magic, and a combination of all of the above techniques. Brown hopes ‘eagerly to provide for a viewer a grown-up experience of the wondrous’.

Underground is an undeniably spell-binding experience of showmanship and magical genius. It’s hard to review properly though because Brown requests that no one give away what happens in the show. Rest assured, however, there is lots of what you’d be likely to want and plenty of precisely what you’d expect.

Brown is brilliant. He has a magnetic stage presence and, while he is best known for his attention-grabbing stunts on TV, on stage he comes across as a gentler, less frightening sort. It’s easy to see why people fall under his ‘spell’. And he’s funny, unexpectedly so, the man has oodles of good old-fashioned charm.

There’s plenty of audience participation in Underground but no one is hypnotised into doing anything embarrassing, thank goodness. Brown asserts that: ‘nothing can be done under hypnosis that a person cannot achieve when not hypnotised.’ That doesn’t mean he can’t talk you into running around the theatre with your pants down pretending to be a chicken, but thankfully he doesn’t do that (or at least not that I was aware of…).

Brown is ostensibly a ‘mentalist’ (am I the only person who sniggers about this?); and he’s good at it. He actually seems to know what you’re thinking. It’s a trick, he says so, he’s just got incredibly good at picking up on cues most of us can’t detect, to give an incredibly convincing impression of a man who is able to read people’s minds. He’s also ruddy good at card-tricks and conjuring with props.

The theatricality of Underground plays a big part in the ‘wondrous’, and there were a number of genuine gasp-out-loud moments. I can’t say what the finale was – Derren told us not to – but it was funny, unexpected and completely astonishing. Well worth catching.

Buy tickets to upcoming performances of Derren Brown: Underground

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