Derren Brown: Infamous. Channel 4.


Derren Brown burst onto the scene by shooting himself in the head. It’s difficult to top that, but if he told his audience (including me) that birds fly upside down at night, you would have to take him seriously enough to open the curtains and look outside. You wouldn’t see anything, because it was too dark. He would explain that what he was saying wasn’t true, tell you how he did it and then birds would fly upside down. Derren Brown is a god of entertainment.

He personalizes his message, that nothing is as it seems. At one point he segued from David Hume to psychic signals, to a sidebar, whilst the audience was waiting for the outcome of an extraordinary trick. He mimicked a Liverpudlian seer, in a Scouser accent, a bit of humour, but he let that drift. With the greatest economy he returned to that joke, that little aside and pulled like any great scriptwriter a knockout blow at the end of the show.

Derren Brown hypnotises his audience, literally last night he had them dropping off. He brought a young man onto the stage and, in a virtuoso display of showmanship, he had his mother sending him a psychic message – which Derren tells the audience he has no knowledge of and no way of knowing what it is. Yet, somehow, like Columbo wandering over and accidentally -on purpose- fingering  the murder culprit, with his ‘one more thing’ query, Derren gets it right. Derren always gets it right.

The denouement is a bit of an anticlimax. Derren reveals he was called ‘Dickbrain’ at school and a picture of a younger Dickbrain Derren is flashed up behind him for the audience to empathise with. He was called Dickbrain because he was a prodigy, able to remember, with the help of mnemonics a vast amount of information. He was also able to finish two Rubik’s Cubes behind his back. He shows his audience this by working out a random bus route and memorising not just the works of Shakespeare but the placement of every word and comma. An incredible feat, but with Derren the incredible is ordinary. We expect it. He knows that. So he has his little Columbo moment at the end and comes back to the audience with a suitable scripted bang!   If Derren started a religion I’d be a believer. Watch and believe.

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