Spoiler-free review of Derren Brown Showman tour as it opens at the Sunderland Empire

First rule of seeing a Derren Brown show is: you don’t talk about what you saw in the Derren Brown show.

The ultimate showman: Derren Brown
The ultimate showman: Derren Brown

You never know what rabbit hole this master of the mind will take you down with his live shows – and the unexpectedness is all part of the fun.

Difficult, therefore, to review a show when you can’t actually give away what happens. But what I can tell you about the Showman tour is that you should prepare to have your mind mesmerised.

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It’s a show of wonder, of magic, of mind games and more with the theme of old school circus and fair performers and their tricks threading the segments together, from a simple roll of the dice to telepathy.

Derren is back touring for the first time in six years

It’s a trope that fits perfectly into the Edwardian splendour of the Empire and, stripped of the TV cameras from his popular show, theatre really gives you the chance to appreciate the genius of Derren Brown in an intimate setting.

An illusionist, a magician, a mind-boggler, call him what you will, there’s no denying Derren is captivating to watch.

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As warm and funny as he is intelligent, he’s more than capable of keeping the entire audience in the palm of his hand for two hours – I was so engrossed I could have sat and watched him for another two to be fair.

Despite this being a one-man show, the audience too become part of the magic with plenty of willing participants eager to join him on stage and have their minds manipulated for our entertainment.

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It creates a real sense of collectiveness, which seems all the more poignant as we return to enjoying live performance once more.

As well as all the trickery, he talks of the very simple magic of human connection and had a fair few of us dabbing our eyes in some of the segments with audience members. Ahead of the shows he asks people to bring a small object of sentimental value with them and, if you’re one of those open to having your mind read, it’s worth doing so to experience the seemingly impossible first hand.

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You can expect the unexpected with this rescheduled show, but one thing’s for sure you’ll leave the auditorium scratching your head as to how he’s done it. And that’s the only spoiler you need.

Derren Brown Showman is at Sunderland Empire until Saturday, September 11. Tickets here.

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