Interview: Going deeper underground with Derren Brown

Derren Brown
Derren Brown

It was supposed to be  a year off from touring for the master of psychological illusion Derren Brown, but he couldn’t resist the allure of the stage.

His new show Underground comes to Northampton’s Royal & Derngate from Thursday to Saturday, July 27 to 29.
The dark manipulator of magic and mind control is touring his latest stage presentation, Derren Brown: Underground.
Direct from its recent sold-out London run, it features a collection of some of the very best of his previous stage work brought together into a spell-binding experience of showmanship and magical genius.
He said: “It’s not a brand new show, rather an opportunity to see me perform some of my own choice of favourite bits from the past 14 years of touring.
“Hopefully, it will be just as rewarding an experience for those who have seen me before as it will be for first-timers.
“As the material was largely already in place from previous shows, the challenge was to make sure it held together and amounted, as we always try to make the shows, to more than the sum of its parts.
“Strangely, being already familiar with the routines made finding the narrative more difficult than usual.
“But I also work and write with my creative partners Andrew O’Connor and Andy Nyman, who together direct the show.”
Derren has toured every year since 2003 and been watched by an estimated audience of nearly two million people.
But he wasn’t supposed to be touring this year.
Derren said: “Yes - this was supposed to be a year off tour-wise but it hasn’t happened. I’ve been out doing a show in New York as well as Underground in London.
“It’s all been good fun.”
But does he still enjoying touring?
Derren said: “I enjoy it more each year. This show has been a lot of work to get it to where it is but
“I’m very happy with it and responses have been great.”
With a number of touring shows and a huge worldwide audience, did he ever think he would be this succesfful?
“No. The first show I performed was a dreadful, structureless, self-indulgent hypnosis show for my fellow students at Bristol. My mum came up on stage and played along because she felt a bit sorry for me. Luckily I was so enamoured with myself that I couldn’t see how awful it all was. I hope I’ve gained some sort of slither of perspective since.”
It has been a busy time for Derren with a couple of projects on the side, including the book Happy.
He said: “I loved writing it and very much miss it. I’m eager to write something else but Happy took three years to write and I don’t want to rush it.
“But yes, very much so. I’m assembling my thoughts at the moment around a topic I find compelling and we’ll see how it goes.”
He has also been working on the ghost train ride at theme park Thorpe Park which has been causing a wide range of nightmares for visitors to the attraction.
But is there anything that scares Derren?
“Most of us live with one of two basic fears; that of abandonment or being overwhelmed. I’m very much in the latter camp. I like my space and quiet pursuits, and am unhappy when people make demands on me.
“It means I’m good at avoiding stress but sometimes so good that I don’t really embrace new challenges. By comparison, someone with a fear of abandonment will tend to move towards stress to try to fix it, and will be prone to anxiety and taking too much on.
“I’m the opposite of that, which is why the Stoics (which I write a lot about in Happy) resonated with me so well.”
The show starts at 8pm each night. To book tickets call the box office on 01604 624811 or by visiting www.royalandderngate.co.uk where more details are available. This performance is not suitable for children under 12 years of age.