Londonist, along with the rest of the press, audience, and anybody with a camera phone within a two-mile radius of the Palace Theatre, are under semi-strict instructions not to reveal the contents of Infamous, which, honestly, makes our job a little bit difficult.
We’re not sure whether the nation’s favourite so-called psychic Derren Brown has actually hypnotised us into being unable to reveal any details even if we wanted to. He sort of terrifies us, to be honest. There was some confetti at the end of the show, if that doesn’t count as a spoiler, a shred of which we caught, and for a moment we were half-expecting the confetti shreds to reveal our name, age, and date of death, scrawled across one side of it in a madman’s handwriting.
It didn’t. But he still horrifies us.
That’s not a slight against the man: he has a wonderful stage presence, with the patter of a seasoned comedian and the mesmerising skills of an actual wizard, which, of course, he is not, which he may or may not make a point of telling you the audience throughout this new show of his. It’s just kind of unbelievable, this whole sceptical oh-isn’t-it-funny-that-people-belive-I’m-a-wizard angle, because a) if he isn’t a wizard then we have no idea what the hell we just watched for two hours, and b) that’s exactly the sort of thing a real wizard would say, to throw us off his trail.
What we can tell you (we think) is that Infamous is a more personal show than Brown’s previous offerings, but it still follows that ‘deconstructed magic show’ formula you know and might even love. There are stories, there are impressions, there are little asides to Brown’s past, and it is fascinating, and also there is a lot of magic and trickery which he keeps telling you isn’t real but, honestly, we’re not even sure. These two strands weave together and by the final set-piece you’re left with the impression that you’ve just watched a madman unravel the fabric of his psyche on stage for the entertainment of 2,000 people.
The big irony at the centre of a Derren Brown show is that you need to come in as a believer: to enjoy the full experience, you need to really believe, if only in a temporary suspension-of-disbelief kind of way, that people can really, actually do arcane, slightly mad sorcery of the varieties x and y. That volunteer isn’t a stooge; the people under Brown’s command to do z is just a regular person who could well have been you; the girl at the business end of potentially the strangest two-hour-delayed punchline you’ve ever seen isn’t actually lying when she confirms that yes, wizardry c was in fact true all along.
Yes, it’s banal to say “you really just need to go along with it,” but it’s especially true for what is, essentially, a magic show. Derren Brown is, at the very least, an insanely clever person if not an actual warlock. Either way, if you’re not poking for holes, it’s hellishly entertaining.
Derren Brown: Infamous runs at the Palace Theatre until the 17 August. Tickets are available from the Palace’s website.