Review: Derren Brown Showman, at The Lowry, Salford

Derren Brown Showman Live Tour

A moment of silence has the audience on tenterhooks - Credit: Mark Douet

How does one review a show when one has made a solemn promise not to tell anybody what happens? 

I could do it in two words: mind-blowing. Though to be truly accurate it's so much more. Yes, there's mind-reading, yes there's mind control and yes, there's magic, but from the very first moment to the last, it is so much more than all those things.

Derren Brown has always bewitched, always bewildered, his audiences, but last night's show took it all to a higher level than ever before. Not because there were bigger 'tricks', there weren't. And not because of any special effects or smoke and mirrors trickery - there wasn't. It was simply because Brown held the audience gripped firmly, yet gently, from the very first seconds of the performance to the very last. And he didn't even come on stage for the first five minutes.

Derren Brown Showman Live Tour 2022

What will he do next? Hypnotism always fascinates - Credit: Mark Douet

He has called his current show Showman, yet the man himself presents as nothing showy at all. At all times he is calm, restrained, controlling the flow of emotion between himself and his absolutely mesmerised audience. There's nothing of the red-jacketed, gold-corded master of ceremonies about Derren Brown, he has no need of shouting, or flash bangs or exhortations to pay attention - Brown's audience hardly dare breath for fear of missing something. When he's not talking, the audience is utterly silent, waiting on his next words. When he is talking, you can almost feel everybody tilt forward in their seat, desperate to be the one person who 'figures it out'. And when he does his mind magic, when he uses his psychological trickery and makes the big (or small but stunning) reveal, the same audience tilts back, mouths hanging open in disbelief.

The audience participation in this show is extraordinary - from having the whole auditorium on their feet to having many of us on stage, there's barely a moment when he's not engaging directly with his crowd. It's perhaps this that makes the show so watchable, so 'I'd see that again, tomorrow'. It's real people, doing extraordinary things, at the gentle behest of a man in a dark suit and a marvellous way with words.

Derren Brown Showman Live Tour audience members on stage

Audience participation unites those in their seats with those (brave souls) on stage - Credit: Mark Douet

For two hours you will sit in a state of heightened emotion - not least because, as well as being brilliantly technical, Derren Brown is marvellously articulate, empathetic and not afraid to share personal stories, which he shares because they are human stories and, he knows, connect us all with one another. In amongst the cards and the dice and the numbers and the secrets, Brown weaves a magic that binds his audience not only to himself, but to one another. 

Through a whole series of wondrous experiences, Brown will have you on the edge of your seat, before rocking back and gazing open mouthed at whomever you came with. But there is one that will have you stunned, utterly and eternally floored. Even my husband, the most sceptical and cynical of men, can barely talk about it. Oh just wait - it's a doozie.

Most Read

He will make you laugh, he will make you wonder, he will likely make you believe in magic, and he will also make you cry, just a little, as you acknowledge that at heart, we are all the same - our shared experiences uniting us, regardless of the differences in daily pattern of our lives.

Oh, and he'll steal from you too - but that bit I won't share.

Book it now, it's something you will talk about for years - the night you saw Derren Brown... oh, that's right - no spoilers.

Derren Brown Showman Live Tour plays at The Lowry, Salford, till Saturday 16 July.