"Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so."

"Don't think, feel....it is like a finger pointing towards the moon. Don't concentrate on the finger or you will miss all that heavenly glory!" -Bruce Lee

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Derren Brown: Something Wicked This Way Comes

***WARNING: Spoilers!!! Do not read if you plan to see the show because it'll ruin it!***

There, I warned you, don't blame me! ;)

So, last night we went to see Derren Brown at the Dorking Halls in his 'Something wicked this way comes' tour. It was amazing. For those of you who have not seen 'Derren Brown's Mind Control' program on Channel 4/E4, Derren is a psychological illusionist and sceptic of paranormal phenomena. He uses a combination of suggestion, misdirection, psychology and showmanship in order to perform his 'tricks'. Really such a clever guy! Beware of his website by the way, I just went on it and I noticed that when it is loading, some kind of subliminal message flashes up on the screen.. I didn't catch what it said, but if you take a look and then later on feel a strange compulsion to buy his DVD or something.. well..

This really is the most intriguing show, in the interval there were just huddles of people everywhere just trying to work out how he was doing these things! I would definitely recommend seeing the next tour, but another word of warning, be careful where you get seats, I mean if you don't fancy getting up on the stage then seriously get back row tickets because he does his upmost to make sure people from all over the place get a go! We thought we'd be safe in the front row of the balcony, but there were some close calls! Basically to show that he's not in collusion with members of the audience, e.g. only selecting his stooges as participants, he chucks a cuddly monkey into the audience, and then asks it to be thrown three more times, and the person it lands with comes up on stage! How scary!

Anyway, this is what happened:

~~Act 1~~
Derren opened by saying that he believes that his audience is split thus:
**89% of you have seen at least half a dozen of his programmes;
**the other 11% have been dragged along by boyfriends/girlfriends/mates.
**Out of his audience, 72% will be in Channel 4’s demographic of 18-35 years of age and own large DVD collections (some of which are still in the original wrapping).


First off, he asked everyone to think of a land animal.

He then chucked the monkey, and after several more throws was caught by a girl named Emma, who was brought up on stage. He asked her which animal she was thinking of, and then asked her to turn round this big card on the stage with a question mark on it, which was supposed to have a drawing of the correct animal on it. Lol, when she turned it round it was really stupid, it was kind of like a kid's drawing of some stick creature with horns and trotters and udders, I mean really it could have been anything! And he was like.. SEE! It's a horse! Anyway, when everyone was starting to think 'oh well that was pretty lame..', he told her to open up the envelope sitting next to the picture and read it.. and it was something along the lines of ' and now we can see that the picture is absolutely, without question, a picture of a...', and asked her to turn over the paper, and there in typed block capitals was the word HORSE! It was quite impressive. Mum and I were wondering if it would have worked for us though, because we both thought of zebra! Maybe you need to be standing up and looking directly at him for the suggestion to work, or maybe someone swapped the envelope when everyone was looking at the wierd drawing, who knows!

Anyway, next to set up his final trick, he made Emma swap her ring for a chained and padlocked briefcase. She had to bring it back at the end of the show and had the interval to try and crack the padlock's combination.

The next trick was so funny because it just went so wrong! He asked for everyone to think of the surname of their first crush, then threw the monkey a few times to select 4 more people to come up. He asked them all to write down the name on a bit of paper and stick it in their back pocket, then asked each to pick out a ball from a bag: the bag containing 1 black and 3 white, have a look to see what colour and then hide it. They were then instructed that when he asked each one, they should tell him their name, and their job. And then, if they are holding a white ball they should tell him a fake name for their mother's maiden name, and if black, they should tell him their mother's true maiden name. He offered £50 to any of them who could fool him about the colour of the ball they were holding.

Lol, well the first guy he asked, he was like 'Ok Graham, that's your name isn't it?' and the guy agreed, 'do you want to come up first..', so Graham stepped up to the microphone, and said 'Hi, my name's Jim Smith..' LOL! Oops.. that'll be a white ball then! Too keen to lie that one was! So he got sent off the stage..
Next up was a lady who worked in the box office.. and she answered the first two questions fine, then when it got to the mother's maiden name she hesitated, stopping to think before saying 'Palter'. I guess it must've been nerves on her part, but Derren took it to mean that she was trying to think up a really unusual one, so he laughed and said 'That's the worst lie I've even seen!! Give us your white ball and go back to your seat..' at which point she pulled out the black ball from her pocket! Lol, you shoulda seen his face, it was so funny! So the lady was well chuffed, walked away with £50 and the knowledge that she outwitted Derren Brown, albeit unintentionally, awesome! I'd love to do that!

So anyway, he said 'that's kinda put an end to that one then' and sent the remaining people off the stage.. and then changed his mind and brought one girl back on. He pretended to hypnotise her and grabbed a pad and pen.. and while her head was hung, he scrawled down a few random letters, then turned it over and wrote (I can't remember the surname, so I'll make it up..) MERCER, then he hid the paper and woke up the girl, and asked her the name of her first crush and she said it! It was exactly right. I can only think that he nicked the bit of paper out of her pocket when she left the stage and then put it back when he put her to sleep. It was impressive though!

I can't remember all the tricks he did, but there was another one that was with those cards that are used by parapsychologists, you know: circle, square, wavy lines, cross, star, triangle. He picked out a girl from the audience who said she believed in psychic ability. He then appeared to transmit which card he was thinking of to her, I guess it must've been through the things he was saying to her, and they managed to select the same card 5 times out of 5. At one point, when she chose a card, he suggested to her that the card she'd chosen was not selected on instinct, and said she should choose again before turning over both of their cards, which made us think maybe the backs of the cards were marked in some way? But it was amazing how he did it, and how 4 out of 5 times he didn't noticeably guide her choice!

Other than that, the first half was made up of more of the types of tricks that are shown in Mind Control, for example counting buttons from one look, after being slapped! He got those right 100% of the time, even when the buttons were moving and one fell on the floor!

The first Act finished with a warning that some viewers may find the second Act disturbing, and not suitable for children under the age of 12.

~~Act 2~~
After hammering a nail into his head and then giving it to some poor lady as a souvenir, (as __kali__ says...) 'You know it’s not going to be pleasant when the stage crew bring out a huge tarpaulin and Derren asks the audience if there is a doctor in the house.'

Derren explained that on the whole he uses the techniques he’s learnt on other people, but now he was going to demonstrate how he was able to use the same techniques on himself. He talked about how he was obsessed with the work of a 1930’s performer who was able to control the flow of blood to his brain, and in doing so was able to control the pain he felt: demonstrating his ‘powers’ by walking over a path of broken glass. He went on to say that this guy died of a drug overdose as a result of trying to recreate the euphoria induced by 'coming out' of this state. Apparently Derren was taught to do this thing by the guys daughters, who he'd passed the trick on to. Worryingly, Channel 4 had not allowed him to show this on TV so it was restricted to only live theatre audiences..

He got this nurse out from the audience and asked her to tap out his pulse on the microphone with a stick, and then he put a bag over his head and breathed in and out in the bag, pretty much fastened around his neck, so he appeared to just be breathing in carbon dioxide.. his pulse slowed right down and then she couldn't find it at all.. ugh it was nasty! He really did not look in a good way! He did the glass walk, got a whole load of cuts in his feet (but they didn't bleed?!) and a whole load of bits of glass stuck in his feet, which he removed before proceding to lie down in the glass, with face right in it. That was bad enough really, without his assistant inviting this guy from the audience to stand on top of him: one foot on the head, one on the back, agh! His breathing sounded terrible! Anyway, after all that and he's removed all the glass from his body, he seemed to be ok! The nurse took his pulse again, tapping it on the mic as before, it started very slow and weak and gradually sped up, and when it was back to normal I think the pain suddenly hit him lol, because he couldn't stand still for a second, he was completely hyperactive!

Next he showed us a little film full of subliminal messages. (For legal reasons he had to tell us this). He put out an envelope on the mic stand so we could see he wasn’t tampering with it and said that as the film finished four members of the audience would have a compulsion to come down to the stage. One of them was sitting right behind us in the balcony section, and he was acting really strange, walking really wierdly and kinda looked a bit dazed, falling over a few people while getting out of his row.. that was wierd.

The four ‘volunteers’ had to come on stage, pick up an envelope, and place in it a coloured piece of paper from a group of five (that was hidden behind a screen that the audience (and Derren) couldn’t see behind), and sit in a chair. He then read out the contents of the envelope: a 2-sided piece of A4 in which he had made predictions:
**there would be one male and three females (this was wrong actually, it was two females and 2 males)
**they would all be sitting on the chairs in a certain order (correct)
**they’d all have picked a certain coloured envelope (correct).
**the last envelope left over would be blue (correct).

Derren then got them to tell the audience their seat numbers and got them to open their coloured envelopes. The seat numbers on the paper inside matched the ‘volunteers’ numbers, all except for one guy who was just 2 seat numbers out. Very clever! Especially, as it turned out the first blunder (number of males and females) was intential as a means of distraction for a subliminal message related to the final trick.

Derren’s finale was apparently inevitable (although it think it relied heavily on participant nerves). He said so himself as he placed another envelope on the stage that everyone could see. He brought Emma with the briefcase back on stage. Threw some of that day’s newspapers out to random members of the audience. He asked Emma which newspaper she reads, to which she replied 'The Daily Mail'. There were two people in the auidence holding a copy, and so he asked her to choose one. He then picked up a copy of 'The Times' and flicked through it reading headlines, and asked Emma to stop him at some point (she could see the page numbers). The page number of the headline was 13. The newspaper holder had to pull out that page, rip it up into squares and bring it to the stage. Derren then got Emma to give him a number between one and 10 amd counted off the ripped off bits of paper until he got to the seventh one.

He then asked her to pick a word off that little scrap of paper. She chose ‘extraordinary’. Derren opened up the envelope in full view of everyone and pulled out a banner which spelt out ‘EXTRAORDINARY’.

It was unbelievable!

But what made it even more crazy was, that he somehow told her what the combination to the case was just by looking at her (it had eluded her for the wholeshow so far), she unlocked the briefcase and in it was a copy of that days Daily Mail. He asked her to open it at page 13 and read out the word circled on that page. It was ‘extraordinary’. And it also turned out she didn't even read the Daily Mail anyway, she just said it.. spooky..

Oh and the best bit was.. it turned out the stage crew had been filming the entire show from the wings and edited together a little film of the points in the show where he had placed subliminal messages. Lol, I thought at the time it was a bit wierd when he said things like “it’s not daily I hammer a number 13 nail into my head,” or “Think of the first mail crush you had when you were younger”. He even got a few ‘extraordinary’s in there too, but I didn't notice at the time. I tell you it's amazing how your brain hangs on to these little things you see and hear, you think they're forgotten, but it seems they're still there floating around affecting your decisions quite a while later! Or in Mum's case, giving you migraines the day after!

I just wonder if I've been left with any odd compulsions after watching all those subliminal messages.. oh well, ho hum.. anyway, I think I'll go and pick up a Daily Mail..


¨°º©[ Fink ]©º°¨ said...

Hehe! Excellent write up...! :)

Marcelle said...

I envy you. You got to watch that thing live. It's stupendous how he performs it!

I performed a version of the newspaper finale, but I didn't have as many subliminal messages as that! Whoa...

jamesrock said...

Hello there :)

You may be interested in my blog at derrendisclosed.blogspot.com

It's a blog full of theories behind Derren's magic, however, after reading your post it would seem I may have made at least a one misjudgment as to how some of the tricks work - particularly the finale. Perhaps not all the papers thrown out were Daily Mails after all...