How Olivier Winner Derren Brown Created a Psychological Thriller Meets Illusion Show for His Broadway Debut

Interview   How Olivier Winner Derren Brown Created a Psychological Thriller Meets Illusion Show for His Broadway Debut
 
“Instead of a deck of cards it’s people’s ongoing psychological experience that’s my prop” in Derren Brown: Secret.

The star of Derren Brown: Secret might shy away from revealing what illusions he’ll perform on Broadway—but Brown has no qualms about telling you that he knows how your mind works.

“We live in this infinite data source, but we edit and delete that information to fit a narrative that we probably already decided on beforehand,” says Brown, a two-time Olivier Award winner making his Broadway debut. In Secret, which begins previews September 6 and officially opens September 15, the illusionist will force audiences to see beyond that narrative and confront reality.

The whole show—which enjoyed a sold-out run Off-Broadway at Atlantic Theatre Company last fall, and begins playing Broadway’s Cort Theatre September 6—is about the stories we tell ourselves. “It’s kind of like being a magician, but instead of a deck of cards it’s people’s ongoing psychological experience that’s my prop,” Brown explains.

Secret is still about having a fun night at the theatre, though. Whether it’s Brown selecting volunteers by tossing a Frisbee into the orchestra (he’ll understand if you opt out) or audience members expressing slack-jawed disbelief at what he’s just revealed, participation is highly encouraged.

The number of volunteers varies a bit each night, but around 20 people take part in different routines at different times. At certain sections of the show, the entire audience is involved.

And should theatregoers see the show twice, it’s entirely possible the experience will be different. “It’s a show all about the ongoing psychological experience of the people there,” he says, so if there’s a storm outside or the mood in the room is lethargic, Brown adapts to the vibe.

Comparing the Broadway experience to his Netflix specials (including Sacrifice, Miracle, and The Push), Brown mentions the more intimate experience of the evening, which lends itself to more fun onstage and in the audience. “It is a bit of a rollercoaster,” he says of the live, New York City experience. “It’s fun and funny, probably in a way that the television shows aren’t. Those are normally quite serious. We’ve always tried to make the shows over-deliver so it’s more than you expect, so hopefully you come out on a high.”

Which means this is one Secret you won’t be able to keep to yourself.

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