Derren Brown: Enigma

Published June 18, 2009

Has there ever been a more appropriate title for a show than Derren Brown: Enigma? The world-renowned mentalist, and everything he does, is a wonderfully intriguing puzzle that leaves audiences dumbstruck and delighted.

His new show picks up where last year’s An Evening Of Wonders left off, with a box of audience-provided suggestions, and progresses in much the same fashion as the 2008 offering: a first half of short routines followed by a second which mixes explanations and debunking of psychic behaviour with tricks that seem to prove that psychic ability and spirit realms really do exist. It is not just an enigma, it is a paradox.

But it is a slick paradox of the most meticulous craftsmanship, Brown and collaborator/director Andy Nyman producing a performance more polished than the Queen’s silverware, even with the sometimes less-than-helpful press night volunteers.

One such volunteer, sourced, as before, by the random act of Frisbee tossing – though nothing, as Brown takes pains to teach us, is truly random – happened to be my companion for the evening. (As such, I found my name called out for the Adelphi theatre audience as the pay-off to a trick; thrills never came so cheap). He scrutinised every single action taking place and still only managed to concoct theories more half-baked than an undercooked Victoria Sponge.

That is down to the seamlessness of Brown’s performance – which switches from lewd banter to heartfelt tales before you realise what has happened – and the minute precision with which the show has been put together.

As it builds towards its unbelievable, jaw-dropping, gasp-inducing climax, the loose ends, which had been floating around like spirits at a séance, are tied more securely and with more panache than Brown’s second half volunteer medium.

Enigmatic? Yes, but irresistible too.

MA