“I am often dishonest in my techniques but I’m always honest about my dishonesty” (Derren Brown)
Soon to be hitting the road with his new (and lengthy) tour ‘Miracle’, is wonder inducing- mind controlling- channel 4 superstar Derren Brown! Here’s a few things he had to say about the upcoming show..
Early days, but what can you tell us about Miracle?
Not much yet. The way my schedule works is that the title and poster are decided and the tickets go on sale before I’ve the slightest idea of the content. It’s always a bit disarming having people tweet pictures of their tickets they’ve saved up for when I have no idea what’s going to happen after I walk out on stage. I do have a sense of the overall sweep of the show – ‘Miracle’ refers to the miracle of life. That’s probably about all I can say for now.
It’s an evocative title and will provoke reaction from religious groups. Was that intentional?
Not in the slightest. If someone’s upset by the word ‘Miracle’ then that’s not my problem! How provocative the show will be, or if it will even concern religion, I don’t yet know. Maybe a bit.
Infamous was received with universal acclaim from press and audiences alike. Any pressure?
It’s always the same pressure, and no pressure. If you try to ‘top’ your previous work all the time, you just go mad and the work suffers. It’s important to keep rooted in the present – what do I feel is worthwhile? What do I want to say? What would be fun and amazing for a few thousand people trapped in a room with me? – while keeping an eye out for what you’ve done before so you’re not repeating yourself untowardly. Other than that the brief is always the same: over-deliver.
Infamous was seen as your most ‘personal’ show to date. Can we expect an autobiographical ‘voice’ in Miracle?
Maybe. I think it will be more philosophical. I can imagine bringing in more of the thinking I find interesting and worthwhile, although like a good stand-up you have to use yourself as a means of deflection otherwise it can become preachy. Infamous did touch on that area of saying something hopefully worthwhile and at the same time remaining vulnerable. That’s a powerful combination , I think.
This is your 13th (!) year on the road. What is the enduring appeal for you?
Two things. The performance of the show is a delight every night. No matter what sort of a day I’ve had, it leaves me feeling fantastic. That’s all to do with the adrenalin, and making sure when I write the show that I’m not putting anything in there I won’t actually enjoy doing on the night. Secondly, I have my days free to read, write and take photos. This is a big thing for me. I lived ten years in Bristol when I got started, with nothing but the odd magic gig to take up my time. I miss some of that, now that I have a lot of contractual responsibilities to keep me very busy almost all of the year. So having my days free to pootle is fantastic, and the fact I’m in a different city each week keeps it always interesting. I like moving about, and I like being with the pals I tour with.
What’s been your ‘best and worst of times’ on tour?
Best may have been going out with my Leica last year and discovering street photography. Worst is any period when I get run down. I do everything to keep in good health and rest my voice, but sometimes of course it and I get tired. It’s a funny thing – I feel the whole show through my voice. If it’s strong, I feel the show has been strong. If it’s crackly or weak, I feel the show is the same. I’ve had to abandon signings after shows now to make sure it’s always in the best possible shape. That worked last year, it made a real difference.
You’ve started seriously taking photos on tour and a selection is currently on display at the Rebecca Hossack Gallery. What was the initial inspiration?
I’ve always had an interest in photography but it was the Leica camera I bought that changed everything. Leica invented the compact 35mm camera and the design has barely changed since they did. It’s very simple and discreet and you feel you understand it in a way that you never do with other digital cameras with their endless pages of menus. Then once I got going, my experience of being out and about on the street changed from one of keeping my head down to feeling open and connected and very interested in everyone and everything. That’s a very lovely feeling. And without provoking a mass vomiting, the point of street photography for me is about finding those moments of beauty that exist in the relationships between people and their environments, so it couldn’t be any more of a pleasure to do. Even if the pictures are terrible and don’t reflect any of that, the process is a huge delight.
Are you planning to take more photos on this tour?
Yes – I’ll be editing a book I’m writing on happiness and taking more pictures. Can’t wait!
Alongside your photos is a new collection of paintings, which appear to signal a more ‘internalised’ view of your subjects. Would you agree? How would you express any developments in your art?
Actually that came from taking the sorts of photos I do; generally people don’t know I’m photographing them so they’re not looking at the camera. In portraits though, it’s standard for the subject to be looking at the viewer, and taken for granted that that makes for a more intense connection. But I wanted to have them looking away, in private moments of reflection or interest, and I quite like the result. But I hadn’t painted for two years before them, so sometimes returning to painting after a long period just naturally brings with it s desire to do something a little different.
Your new book on happiness… Is this still a work in progress?
Yes. It’s another source of huge pleasure. I think I’m at my best when I’m getting my head around a subject. The ideas I’m finding and exploring for this book through my own reading are very rich and I’m in no rush to finish it. I imagine I’ll be handing it in for publication at the end of 2015.
Can you tell us of your future TV plans? Can we expect to see more specials on Channel 4?
I took a bit of a break this year, so didn’t do any specials for TV after touring other than the broadcast of Infamous. I have a few plans for next year but as ever, can’t really say…
Looking back over the years, do you have a favourite TV special you’ve done?
Apocalypse and Hero At 30,000 Ft. The fun of setting up and executing what were essentially huge practical jokes, and the impact the shows made on their protagonists’ lives, made them my personal favourites. I’ve remained close to both of the guys involved and they continue to do well.
Do you think the magic genre can continue to break boundaries?
Of course, but it depends on the clear vision of the performer. Magic is a very childish thing at heart: the quickest, most fraudulent route to impressing people. And it’s based in dishonesty. So you have to work harder to make it have artistic merit or relevance. To do anything genuinely original with it you can’t only be thinking about tricks. Penn and Teller are a good example of having a bigger agenda while remaining true to their job of producing the strongest magic they can, and it makes their work great and keeps them, at 59 and 66 respectively, consistently fresh and interesting.
13, 14, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21 – Orchard Theatre, DARTFORD
23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28 – New Theatre, OXFORD
30, 31 – New Alexandra Theatre, BIRMINGHAM
16, 17, 18 – BIC, BOURNEMOUTH
20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25 – Theatre Royal, PLYMOUTH
4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 – Regent Theatre, STOKE
11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 – Alhambra Theatre, BRADFORD
18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23 – Playhouse, EDINBURGH
25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30 – Empire, Sunderland
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 – Theatre Royal, NORWICH
8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 – Royal & Derngate, NORTHAMPTON
15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20 – Empire, LIVERPOOL
29, 30 – De Montford Hall, LEICESTER
1, 2, 3, 4 – De Montford Hall, LEICESTER
6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 – Waterside, AYLESBURY
13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 – Grand Opera House, YORK
20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25 – New Theatre, HULL
For ticket prices and times contact the individual venue.