Derren Brown: Underground
Wales Millennium Centre, Tue 5 May
The looks of bewilderment and intense shock told you everything you needed to know about Derren Brown’s Underground. It was meant to be a selection of his best illusions, the old mixed with the new, but it seemed so much more. You run out of words to describe it and by the end, you’re left questioning your own mental processes.
If ever you needed confirmation that you only use 10% of your brain, this was it. From a number of deep sleeps to embarrassing confessions from Cardiff Half Marathon runners, there was an air of nervous tension and panic amongst the crowd. Nobody really wanted to be THAT person to go up on stage, but we were all left wondering what it feels like to be under Brown’s ‘spell’, if you could call it that.
The theme of the night seemed to be freedom of choice, as well as heavy audience participation. When we all sat down for an evening of astonishment, we thought we had full control over our actions, but as the two-and-a-half hour show went on, we all started to doubt ourselves. Brown fed off that, and with the levels of anxiety rising in the room, so did his performance. Nobody left knowing what was going on and while I don’t want to condone the use of this word, the entertainment can only be described as magical, almost supernatural.
I’d love to go into detail on the ins and outs of each illusion, each suggestion and bit of showmanship, but let’s be frank, Derren Brown has made a living out of being a few steps ahead of his audience. It would be cheap to deconstruct. Why don’t you just sit back and admire his heavily planned, intricately detailed ‘set’? There are moments where things don’t go perfectly well, but it’s strangely endearing and in truth, probably all part of the plan. From one illusion to the next, the power was truly in his hands.
Magic isn’t real, of course, and Brown is the first to acknowledge that he is not a ‘psychic’ nor could he ever be. But the real beauty lies in his craft. He’s not a sleight-of-hand magician, or at least I don’t think he is, but a master of the mind and uncovering the more-subtle markers of consciousness.
It’s an odd feeling to leave the Millennium Centre so entertained yet vulnerable, mesmerised but still slightly under a spell. We deliberate, speculate and try our best to solve the riddles – all part of the fun.
words Stuart Fagg
photo Mark Douet