Review: Derren Brown Svengali at Novello Theatre, London

Posted on 18 July 2012
By Angela Johnson
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Derren Brown’s deliciously devilish show Svengali will astound, intrigue and down right give you the creeps. Which is precisely why Brown’s unique brand of live entertainment sells out night after night. If you’re unfamiliar with Derren’s TV or stage work then more fool you, he is the most interesting, talented and genuinely witty performer you’re likely to encounter for the price of a West End theatre ticket.

Derren swears each crowd member to solemn secrecy regards the content of his three hour act, so my lips must remain tightly sealed. It is a fair request, Derren’s audience must arrive clueless as to the upcoming rollercoaster ride or it will only spoil the fun. Fans familiar with previous tours Something Wicked This Way Comes and Enigma can expect even more breathtaking trickery and misdirection leading to a mind-boggling climax. There is some repetition of previous themes yet, with Derren at the helm, even a simple guessing game to open the show, whether it be an envelope or shoe box, remains fresh.

Keeping us second guessing at every turn, of course, we always lose and Derren revels each time he catches us out. The clear enthusiasm for his craft which oozes from every pore is infectious and entirely captivating to watch. Each show is guaranteed unique with Derren singling out members of the audience using frisbees, balloons, a wide-beam torch and even a tombola filled with every seat number in the house. No-one is safe and that’s the added thrill as tension peaks and troughs throughout the evening.

Impossible to outsmart, Derren is in control yet, despite his fiercely intimidating intelligence, his amicable persona is such that the crowd become putty in his hands. Forget pondering whether he has psychic powers, he doesn’t, it’s Derren’s ability to engage our complete trust that is his true power.

Compelling viewing builds along with the suspense as Derren balances the macabre with light hearted banter to pitch the mood just right – like the slightest tweak of a puppet string. Svengali is unlike any other show you will see, a guaranteed thrill ride which will keep your conversation lively all the way home trying to figure out how he does it. Of course, we don’t actually want to know. Were the invisible strings he pulls revealed the illusion and wonderment would shatter. Long may Derren reign as puppet master.

10/10

Don’t miss out – Svengali enjoys a limited run at the Novello Theatre until 11th August 2012.