With Derren Brown, nothing is as it seems. The renowned magician has finally brought his latest production Showman to the capital.
Obviously, a lot has happened since we last saw Brown up on a London stage and this is a show not only written during the pandemic but, to a great degree, caused by it. The usual illusions are wrapped in allusions to the dark times of the Covid era and how family (especially lads and dads) and human connection were paramount.

There are few fripperies here – the ever-present camera that shows the stage action on the back wall is as high tech as this show gets – but that’s kind of the point here. Brown, like John Donne before him, is keen to emphasise that, while we may appear to be isolated individuals, we are all part of a community, whether it is as a sibling, a parent or child or just in an audience with others on a freezing December night.

Brown still has the banter to perk up any act and, even in its slowest moments, there is something in the timbre of his voice that keeps you hanging onto the edge of your seat to see what happens next. It’s worth listening closely, though: much of what happens in the last third is signposted well ahead of its appearance. The set pieces are as mind-scrambling as ever, defying easy explanation and leaving us amazed. At well over two hours, there’s a lot of bang for the buck here with only the final scene feeling superfluous.

The lengthy running time gives Brown plenty of time to expound on his thoughts both general and specific. His mentalism is as sharp as ever but, for those who have seen him guess impossible details based on body language before, it is more of the same. The real treat here is the emotional journey he takes us on, something that many seeing this show will feel very close to. At the end, Brown earnestly entreats us all to not reveal what actually happens in the show.

So we won’t.

Showman continues at Apollo Theatre until 18 March 2023.

Photo credit: Mark Douet