Derren Brown ‘Infamous’ – Palace Theatre
*For this first time I believe this is not a spoiler warning as I am going to keep this almost entirely spoiler free in order to keep the show largely secret. However there will be allusions to some of the show so if you want to go and see it completely clueless then I suggest you read no further*
Infamous was my first ever live Derren Brown show and I have to admit that I was nervous. As I discovered, the nerves were unnecessary. As an avid fan I had watched most of his television programmes and all of his filmed live shows so I had an idea about what to expect from the evening. But watching him on television never truly compares to the atmosphere that Brown creates when you are there in the room with him. What I experienced was an evening of entertainment unlike anything I had encountered before and one in which I had so much that fun that I would gladly go and watch it over and over again. Although Svengali, the tour that preceded this one, was full of flashier stunts for me personally Infamous was the superior show and may even be his best live show yet.
One thing I hadn’t banked on was just how funny this show was going to be. The jokes aren’t immediate but Brown is a natural comedian which certainly helps to break the tension in some of the spookier parts of the show. My favourite quip of the evening was one that took a while to build up, based upon family blindness and the fact that children under a certain age shouldn’t have been in the audience. A brilliant recurring joke was Brown’s impression of a sham psychic with a very strong Scouse accent (most probably based on Joe Power, the man Derren investigated in one of his shows about mediums) communicating with an audience member’s ‘dead grandma’ to try and guess her phone number. Needless to say, all that attempts were vague, unsuccessful and hilarious.
The physical staging of the stage was magnificent if not a little sparse and relied largely upon lighting to create the atmosphere. The set was designed to look as if it were a run down old theatre with exposed stone work that seemed as if it were crumbling. It was completely at odds with the grandeur of the Palace theatre which is an extremely impressive building. The decrepit nature of the set became particularly effective in the finale of the first act which with the help of lighting created an eerie and disconcerting image that stayed flickering there for the entire interval. I don’t want to say too much about what is created at the end of the first act but it is a haunting and beautiful image that creates real drama and intrigue.
The tricks and illusions that are performed are everything you could have wished for and more from a Derren Brown show. All the old favourites are there albeit performed in new and interesting ways from his previous shows. There are thrills, horrors and an especially gruesome illusion that almost rivals his glass walking trick. It is a proper stomach turner and I have absolutely no idea how he did it, as is the case with pretty much everything he does. Again, we were sworn to secrecy so I can’t say too much about what went down in that theatre but you will have to trust me when I say it was beyond incredible.
Brown is a true showman, how I imagine a Victorian conjuror might have appeared. All he needed was a gas lit theatre and we may as well have been in Victorian London. However the deeply personal nature of the show was distinctly un- Victorian from the first admission that Brown came out at 31 after having hidden who he truly was to his nickname at school. (Dickbrain which is both horrible and brilliant, purely because of how outstandingly rubbish it is as a nickname). Brown delivered a mesmerising night of theatre and it is an experience I know I will be taking part in again next time the showman rolls into town.
Final note: I was lucky enough to have an onstage experience during the second half of the show and although I didn’t get to speak to Derren personally it was still an absolutely amazing thing to have done. It just shows the atmosphere that Derren creates in the theatre as I usually HATE audience participation and would never ever normally put myself up for this but there I found myself, watching the second half from the back of the stage. If you see the show, I recommend you volunteer yourself. It’s great fun!
‘Infamous’ runs until the 17th August at the Palace when it will then head off around the UK on tour