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Derren Brown interview

Derren Brown reveals that his new show will scare and delight.

Photographer: Seamus Ryan

For over fifteen years Derren Brown has exhilarated audiences world-wide with his unique brand of mind control, suggestion, showmanship and illusion. Now the master of cerebral and contentious magic brings his latest show, Miracle, to Leeds Grand Theatre.

Full of excitement and energy, Derren shares with us his intentions behind his latest production, with a hint towards what audiences should expect.

Hello Derren. What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced so far in Miracle?

I had no idea if the second half would work at all when we started. In theory, my audiences are totally the wrong audiences to get to the place I need to get them to. As there’s no way of testing how an audience will respond without having an audience, I just had to get up there and do it on the first night and see how it went. It went very well, which was a huge relief. It still needed a lot of work, and after a week or two of shifting and polishing things, the show felt right. Since then we’ve continued to work on it and now it feels terrific – a very long way from it’s opening week in Dartford last year. It’s a bold and ‘ballsy’ second half, as all my favourite things are. Once I realised it was going to work well – as it could have failed flat on its face – it’s been a joy to work on theatrically and get to a great place.

"It’ll scare and delight in equal measure." Photographer: Seamus Ryan.

“It’ll scare and delight in equal measure.” Photographer: Seamus Ryan.

What would you say separates Miracle from previous tours?

Without getting too much into the content, this is the first show that is about things I find important. Others have had autobiographical bits in them, some more authentic than others, but this one is about things I find important. It has a philosophical underpinning I really care about. It’s ultimately, I suppose, about what makes us happier.

You’ve recently caused a bit of a stir with your latest TV special Pushed to the Edge. What do you make of the various reactions?

I haven’t seen them! People I’ve spoken to seem to think it’s one of the best things I’ve done, which is lovely to hear. But I switch off from any media (or social media) response after TV shows go out. It’s a show that makes you feel uncomfortable, which of course means that some quarters will peddle their peculiar brand of outrage. I suppose that’s a sign that it’s worked. More than that I keep away from, and am happy to not know what the reactions are. If I like it, and the participants have got something out of it, then I’m happy.

There’s talk of a Broadway show. Do you feel it’s now time for you to perform live outside of the UK?

I’ve only ever wanted to do what’s enjoyable, and a couple of months – or whatever it will be – in New York, performing for people who don’t really know me, sounds like huge fun. So no plans to ‘conquer the US’ or move abroad, just a nice thing to have there opportunity to do. We’re in talks with theatres now, and the plan is to put together a show for a first-time audience. It’s different here now: people know me, and bring certain expectations, which deeply affects the material of the show. It’ll be interesting seeing what to put together for people who don’t arrive highly suggestible…

Can you give us the latest progress report on your book about happiness?

I’m hoping so, yes. I’m editing it now and trying to get it down from 800 pages to something more manageable. I’ll miss writing it though – nothing compares to spending a stolen afternoon assembling your thoughts and finding the best language for them. It’s very edifying, and I feel I am at my best when I write. Once the book is on the shelf I move on and forget about it: I can’t ever read it in case I find errors or places where my thoughts have changed. Previous books have been whimsical and quick to write: this has been very involved and long-term for me. The challenge at the moment is to bring three years’ worth of thought and writing (that happened here and there when I had time on the road and between other projects) into something that hangs together well.

Derren Brown’s Ghost Train opens this season. What do you hope people will get out of it?

I hope it’ll scare and delight in equal measure. It’s been a huge project and an extraordinary opportunity to have fun with the latest technology and let my imagination run wild. Nothing of its kind exists, so I’ll be eager to hear from the first people who ride it and find out what they make of it. If all goes well, it’ll be amazing. I can’t wait to get on it myself (at the time of writing, we’re still putting the finishing touches to it).

Derren Brown’s Miracle is at Leeds Grand Theatre from Monday 30th May to Saturday 4th June. Tickets are priced at £42.50 and £44. Book online at leedsgrandtheatre.com or call box office on 0844 848 2700.

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