A New York Theatre Guide to... Derren Brown: Secret!
Here's all you need to know about the Broadway debut of the UK's mentalist-megastar...
Something Wicked This Way Comes! BAFTA and two-time Olivier Award winner Derren Brown has been a household name in the UK for almost two decades. Since his television debut with “Mind Control” in 2000, the Croydon native has forged an extraordinary career thanks to his eerily extraordinary talent as a mentalist and illusionist across the pond. With regular stints on the West End stage and in theatres across the UK and Ireland to his résumé, even garnering two Olivier Awards for “Best Entertainment” in 2006 and 2012, it’s now time for Mr. Brown to set his sights on cracking Broadway. Following the success of his Off-Broadway debut at Atlantic Theater Company in the spring of 2017, Derren Brown: Secret has now moved uptown and has been revealing itself to stunned audiences at the Cort Theatre since September 6, 2019. An official opening is set for this Sunday, September 15, with the limited engagement currently set to close on January 4, 2020.
What’s it all about?
Secret might be described as a kind of “Greatest Hits” show. Derren Brown has enjoyed tremendous success with his live shows in the UK, with provocative titles such as Enigma, Infamous and Miracle, and Secret takes the best segments from his past UK outings to introduce him to a whole new US audience. The very nature of the show forces me to keep the details of each segment in Secret… well, a secret… But I can tell you that the show runs approximately 2 and a half hours long (including intermission) and showcases Mr. Brown’s absolutely mind-blowing gift, as well as his disarming showmanship. From mind-reading to hypnosis, with buckets of mental suggestion and persuasion (and a couple of illusions thrown in for good measure), this is an intimate and strange experience that is bound to blow the mind of even the most hardened and cynical of theatregoers.
Who’s starring in it?
Of course, this is a one-man show with Derren Brown as judge, jury and executioner, but he wouldn’t be able to pull it off without the other stars of the show… you! Yes, if you’re not someone who shies away from audience participation, then Secret will be just your cup of tea. Throughout the show, around a dozen members of the audience are chosen at random (via Frisbees that are thrown out into the auditorium) and are then invited onto the stage as Mr. Brown’s ‘scene partners.’ What an exciting opportunity for those lucky enough to experience his ‘magic’ first-hand!
What’s special about this production?
Secret is unlike anything that Broadway has ever seen. Whilst audiences have grown accustomed in recent years to the Vegas-style magic shows of The Illusionists that combine large-scale illusions with ‘old-school’ magic tricks, Derren Brown is in a different league altogether. He doesn’t rely on flashing lights and pyro, but delivers a classier approach, even sporting his black tie attire during the second half of the show. In his own words, he is “honest about his dishonesty” and denies any psychic abilities, but at the same time, he might employ ominous music and red lighting effects to suggest a supernatural occurrence. He uses an affable manner in the presentation of himself (and as he interacts with audience members) that juxtaposes our demonic preconceptions of mind control. This cleverly and subtly breaks down our defences as we suspend our disbelief and feel we have become part of something truly miraculous.
Who would we recommend it to?
Derren Brown: Secret is not suitable for children under the age of 12 and it’s perhaps not suitable for those harboring dark secrets that may get them into trouble, either. If you’re having an extramarital affair, maybe don’t attend with your spouse!… But otherwise, we’d recommend Secret to everyone who is fascinated by the notions of mind-reading or who has ever yearned to experience hypnosis. Mr. Brown made his Netflix debut last year and could be well on his way to becoming an international star. How great would it be to be able to say you were there at his Broadway debut engagement?!
Derren Brown: Secret Tickets are available now for performances through January 4, 2020.
(Photos by Matthew Murphy)