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Derren Brown’s Unbelievable - Criterion Theatre

Updated: Oct 17, 2023

‘A magician is an actor playing the part of a magician’ - the opening monologue plants the seed to break down the starry-cloaked magician stereotype and further enforces Brown’s narrative that his shows are a mixture of illusion, psychology and mind tricks.

Derren Brown has teamed up with Andy Nyman and Andrew O’Connor to pass on their tricks and tips to a new seven-strong cast of performers with little to no magical background. Some of them are making their West End debut but all are engaging and enjoyable in their own way.

They’re all introduced to us one by one in the opening wardrobe trick which immediately gets you onside by revealing how it works and leaving one poor unsuspecting audience member in the dark.

Simon Lipkin is a brilliant lynchpin of the show with his dynamics and energy bringing every story and line to life - regardless of if he is singing, conversing with audience members or dazzling you with some sleight of hand, you can’t take your eyes off him.

All the cast can sing, act, play multiple musical instruments, and now, stun audiences with their magic. The musical element bridges the gap between tricks which feels a little unnecessary and out of tune with the rest of the show.

The array of tricks on offer throughout the evening are familiar. There are some unique twists on old favourites such as the cup and ball trick which is merged with the ‘Cup Song’ made famous by chick-flick Pitch Perfect.

Longer sketches involved a developed backstory about the prohibition era which brought a musical theatre number, character development for Simon Lipkin to get his teeth stuck into as well as some mind-bending magic turning water into gin, Bailey’s and WKD.

For those of you who have seen Derren Brown’s shows, you’ll know he often has a softer element in his shows and this is still noticeable in this production with a mysteriously moving balloon trick involving a young girl from the audience and a moment to thank all of the incredible magician assistants over the years.

Audience participation is heavily relied on in this show and partly where it loses some momentum; waiting for audience members to make their way from the upper to the stage whilst putting on name tags, selecting songs, and collecting cups. This all keeps the efficient ushers busy but does bring an element of repetitive waiting for someone who doesn’t want to be involved.

I love the concept of this show, I just can’t help but feel it needs tightening up. As long as you don’t directly compare to Derren Brown’s previous one-man shows it can be seen as a strong addition to the West End.

And the ending? I needn't say more than it's so good that we’re asked not to tell anyone what happens… It’s a magical and magnificent finale in which watching reactions unfold of utter shock and overwhelmedness is a pure joy to behold.

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