Ok, very late to the table with Derren Brown: Miracle (it finished on Saturday at The Palace but tours the country until July), but should we even talk about it anyway?
Mr Brown asks us not to reveal anything about the show. So what shall we talk about instead?
Phil could tell you he was, to say the least, hugely underwhelmed by Star Wars : The Force Awakens, quite overwhelmed by the bear attack in The Revenant and that he is suffering Saga Norén withdrawal symptoms since season 3 of The Bridge finished. He could share his enjoyment of Fargo season 2 with you, but would warn against Tracey Ullman’s Show – a woefully unfunny time capsule of a show which was almost as embarrassing to watch as her appearance on The Graham Norton Show.
He’s slightly hooked on Deutschland 83 if you ignore the basic flaws in the set up and that it has great music (including David Bowie) from the period. But then the day Bowie’s death was announced Pointless coincidentally featured a Bowie question and the Sunday Times crossword featured “Hunky Dory” as an answer.
So, back to Miracle then. We’ll endeavour to reveal as little as we can. Others should look away now. But then if Phil was Brown he’d be able to misdirect you to look away without you even realising.
If you’re seen Brown live before you’ll know he’s a tremendous showman with oodles of charisma, extremely funny and you’ll be familiar with the variations of clever mind bogglements he pulls off before the interval, which involved tins of Quality Street, a light bulb, a 50p piece and a large balloon which bounces around the auditorium selecting “victims” from the audience.
This is when Phil missed his big opportunity. The balloon landed in Phil’s hands where it was meant to remain, but instead, missing Brown’s instructions, he patted it away in the direction of Sir Ian McKellen (seated a few rows behind) and the Menier’s AD, David Babani, so a chance to perform in front of such luminaries was lost. But then if you’ve been guillotined on stage by Paul Daniels there really is no topping it is there?
The second half sees Brown debunking evangelical faith healers whilst calling people on stage and performing “miracles” on them. This is where Phil’s scepticism really came to the fore. He couldn’t really be doing what he claimed to be doing. Were there plants in the audience? No, too many of them. But half way through Act 2 he suddenly announced that there was a sceptic in the audience, rushed off the stage and headed straight towards Phil’s mini-party of Andrew (yes, that Andrew) and Oliver scrutinising each one in turn before dragging Oliver to the stage to do something which left us utterly speechless, none more so than his “victim”. To say more would give too much away.
So why Oliver? Brown had selected him before at his Enigma show and rejected him when he failed a very simple task. Why not Andrew or Phil? Did they not look susceptible enough? Probably. Both of them usually put up all sorts of resistance once in a theatre and remember Phil had failed a simple balloon instruction earlier. Had Brown already selected Oliver when the whole audience rose, closed their collective eyes and took part in some mass hypnosis? We will never know.
Phil had the rug pulled from under him completely. Suddenly all the previous “healing” seemed – at least temporarily – genuine. Volunteers’ aches and pains had been removed, tinnitus “cured” and poor eyesight fixed even faster than Mrs Patmore’s in Downton. Surely he could have done something to Sir Ian’s eyes and enabled him to watch the show without occasionally resorting to the opera glasses which he was using from his 7th row stalls seat (something Phil noticed every time he turned to watch the shenanigans occurring all over auditorium). Perhaps Brown could have cured McKellen’s inaudible mumbling in the TV version of The Dresser and then move on to Tom Hardy’s unintelligible muttering in The Revenant ?
We were also gratified to see the whole show featured a proper set by Simon Higlett, but Phil was less gratified that the intelligent manipulator has fallen into the latest irritating trend of repeatedly saying “sat” when he means “sitting”. Can you imagine Bowie singing “For here am I sat in a tin can”? At least Brown hasn’t succumbed to using at least three redundant “like”s every sentence as most young people do. If he could cure that then Phil would definitely call that a miracle.