This man is unfathomable, and easily the most entertaining performer on television today. "An Evening Of Wonders" was a recording of a recent live stage-show, with psychological illusionist Derren Brown once again bewitching an audience with his brand of magic and "psychic" ability. The wonderful thing about Derren is how he goes to great lengths to talk-down his "powers" (making it crystal clear he's not clairvoyant), before doing seemingly impossible things that has your mind tied into knots.
After so many years spent watching his material, you find yourself critiquing ever utterance and twitch Derren makes, convinced he's somehow influencing your decision-making or brainwashing you with his body-language. This time, I noticed his peculiar tendency to jut his chin out as punctuation to his sentences. Has he always done that? Or was that part of the mind-trick? See how paranoid he makes you?! As usual, a pre-show credit makes it clear there are no stooges or backstage crew feeding Derren answers with hidden mic's, which makes the show's content all the more astonishing. Like all great magic, the joy comes from seeing the impossible become possible -- with Derren's twist being that he tells us it's genuinely not what it seems.
A random audience member's father guessed the serial-number of a bank-note over the phone! Incredible. Derren guessed objects people are thinking of! Amazing. He answered questions hidden inside envelopes that the audience wrote during the interval! Remarkable. There was also examples of tricks used in spiritualism ("table-tipping", levitating), a few magic tricks to make us giggle (a well-timed "teleportation" from behind a board into a gorilla costume off-stage), amusing playfulness (are you playing his childish "hole taunting" game yet?), a quick-fire round of "20 Questions" where he never needed to ask more than four, and many more.
I'm sure the show lost some of its edge and atmosphere on television (and nothing could beat first-hand experience of being a "target" of Derren's), but this was still a superb show that amazed, delighted, confused and amused me in equal measure. Infuriating, in the best possible way.
13 January 2009
Channel 4, 10pm