Review: Derren Brown’s Svengali

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

One can only be in awe of Derren Brown. His trickery, stunts and mind-reading abilities leave us all rather dumbfounded. I had only ever seen Brown on television, but last night I had the opportunity to see him live at The Lowry theatre in Salford.

The tickets were booked a year ago – because at the time, every other date was completely sold out. And now I know why.

While some reviewers have been screaming out that the ‘Svengali’ show does not live up to former performances, I would only agree to some extent. However, we must remember that a performer like Derren Brown is very, very rare. What he does on stage is already beyond the limits of imagination itself (what I mean by this is that these rather hasty reviewers couldn’t exactly do this kind of stuff themselves).

We need to remember that Derren has surpassed the memorable talents of other entertainers in his field; some of which died just under a hundred years ago – Houdini, to give a famous example here. Besides, should Derren pursue old acts such as cutting the circulation off in his head, or walking on broken glass, we might end up losing him to ill health, and that is certainly what we don’t want for our favourite, unique gay performer.

‘Svengali’ has a lot to offer. Firstly, there is the confusion surrounding the title of the show itself. What is Svengali? Who is Svengali? Or what does Svengali mean? Brown makes a point in every show of telling the audience not to pass on any information as to what the show is about. This becomes a Derren Brown Inside Pact. So, with all due respect to Derren, I will not expose any of his tricks, stunts or superb psychology.

But I do promise the term ‘Svengali’ is the eerie epicentre of the show. What or who Svengali is, is for you to find out. It is the stuff of many a nightmare or entrenched phobia, and this indeed plays upon the susceptible and innocent members of the audience. I definitely felt a disturbing uncanniness in the room. The whole audience went gravely quiet at the revelation of Svengali. My reaction, to say the least, was ‘Oh great. I won’t be sleeping tonight then’.

On the less spooky side of things, however, Derren delighted us all with his usual Wildean witticisms and humour. Yet what I love the most about this man is his love of exposing the falsities of religion, clairvoyance and other supposed ‘psychic’ abilities. Derren preaches his own word: mind reading is only strong perceptivity and psychoanalysis. Not that we could ever master this of course – this is strictly devilish Derren’s ability.

At least once in your lifetime, see Derren Brown. It is a rare opportunity to see something unique and memorable.