From the stage Derren Brown asks critics and tweeters alike to give nothing away about the show. It is a perfectly understandable request, given that mystery and surprise lie behind the evening’s enjoyment, but it doesn’t make writing this review any the easier!
So we’ll keep it simple. If you’ve never seen a Derren Brown stage show, we recommend that you head straight to the Shaftesbury Theatre where you will almost certainly be bowled over by the totally unexpected nature of the experience. That’s really all you need to know.
For those already acquainted with Brown’s work, you can decide whether Svengali is for you by knowing how it compares with his other shows. Structurally, it follows the same winning formula as Enigma (2009) with its combination of behavioural predictions, ‘hypnosis’ (an inaccurate word designed to reveal nothing) and defiance of unbelievable odds. It is undoubtedly Derren Brown’s best show yet, because of the enhanced interest it takes in audience members, the ever greater twists and turns that surround each ‘trick’, and the consequent demands that this places on Brown’s unique showmanship.
But it is surely assumed that each show will represent a development from the last, and the advancement here is only one of degree. Thus, while in absolute terms Svengali is slicker and more astute than anything that has gone before, it also carries a certain air of familiarity. The question to ask therefore is how much you have enjoyed Brown’s previous shows, and how much you would like to experience not so much more of the same, but more of the same underlying formula.
Until 16 July. Tickets: 020 7379 5399 or from the Shaftesbury Theatre website.