REVIEW: Derren Brown Infamous, Sunderland Empire, until Saturday May 4

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THERE’S little point telling a joke if you give away the punch line before you pose the riddle.

And so it is with Derren’s Brown show.

This is the only production I’ve ever reviewed in which I was warned beforehand not to reveal the exact contents of the show.

And I wouldn’t want to - for the element of surprise and awe is what makes this two hour foray into the unknown the captivating spectacle it is.

What I can tell you is that Infamous is a delicious cocktail of astounding feats of mental agility, mind-bending memory, spectacular sleight of hand and the ability to play the audience like a finely-tuned instrument.

Love him or loathe him, there’s no denying that Derren is a truly talented showman, a ringmaster of psychological illusion. I can’t remember the last time I sat perched on the edge of my seat waiting to see what would come next as I did at this show.

The setting was suitably sinister with clever use of lighting and staging which leads you down the exact path Derren wants you to follow.

For what is as impressive as what you see, is what you don’t - subtle mental nudges which you don’t even realise are being done to make you think of a precise number or feel a certain emotion.

I lost count of the times I sat thinking ‘how the heck has he done that?’

Indeed, the audience are as big a part of the show as the main man himself and he uses dozens of willing participants from across the Empire’s three tiers to be the foil for his stunts.

Derren has often said that touring is his most favourite thing to do - and it shows.

Not only did he feed off the audiences’ gasps at his mental feats, he seemed at home on stage and the live show gave a new insight into this enigmatic man as he talked about coming out and childhood bullying amidst his curiosity cabinet of tricks.

What also came across was his blue sense of humour which tickled ribs in between the moments which toyed with your brain.

I’m still scratching my head trying to fathom how Derren Brown does what he does, but one thing’s for sure: he’s thoroughly, utterly and completely entertaining.

Katy Wheeler