Derren Brown, the ultimate showman
Derren Brown is a mentalist. But then again, unles you’ve been living under a rock for quite some time, I’m sure you knew that. Derren Brown is also a hypnotist, of quite exceptional skill. Derren Brown is a card sharp as well, and a skilled pickpocket, of course. Derren Brown is a master of NLP and body language. I could go on … and on. He is adept at so many skills that it makes your head spin to think about it! He is indeed the ultimate showman. He amazes, infuriates, fascinates, flummoxes, bewilders, charms, puzzles, astonishes, and leaves you simply breathless with wonder.
Derren Brown’s stage shows
His stage shows are enthralling, and he can keep a theatre audience spellbound (literally, probably) while he treats them to a bewildering display of mesmerism and magic that leaves them shaking their heads in utter disbelief.
Misdirection plays a big part in what he does, as it does in most magic, and the audience is often left gaping as he points out the ‘obvious’ (he sometimes has the ‘answer’ to the main event in plain sight on stage throughout the event). Sometimes, the answer is in a sealed envelope to which he has no access, and in which he has previously written the details plucked from various audience members at various times throughout the show.
Mystifying TV specials – Derren Brown style!
is television shows are equally mystifying, although he is at pains to point out that he is not psychic and is sceptical about many people’s claims at psychic ability. Still, he appears, at least, to be able to read a subject’s mind, and not just in the usual, rather obvious cold-reading ways, but in specific and unsettling ways that leave the subject open-mouthed and mumbling. And in his stage shows, he can routinely reel off a few items that were incredibly important to an audience member when he was a child.
He can make a make a man who has been living a fearful, uninspired life become a hero, in a real-life situation (well, the subject was made to believe it was a real life-and-death situation anyway). He can make a man believe he’s actually fighting zombies … for real! He can make himself invisible – at least, to the extent that the person he’s been speaking to for just a few minutes simply cannot see him, although he’s there, in the same room, right in from of him. He has played russian roulette live on television, and lived to tell the tale.
Oh, and he’s a memory expert too. Obviously.
Almost forgot to mention that, what with all his other skills!
Is there anything this man cannot do? Answers, on a postcard only please …
If he put a stop to the stage shows and TV specials right now, he could start a successful career tomorrow in any of his chosen fields, not to mention his uncanny ability to take money and goods from virtually anyone, anywhere, at any time, in the most charming and disarming manner (as in the ‘scam’ where he walked into a jeweller’s shop and chatted about a nice platinum item worth, I think, about £4k, and strolled out with it without parting with any money, leaving the store owner feeling bemused and slightly disoriented – and his only ‘weapons’ were a few carefully chosen and expertly delivered words). If he chose to, he could comfortably sustain a very plush lifestyle purely from his amazing pickpocketing skills.
Derren Brown’s artwork
Oh, and his artwork … incredible … yes, this man of a thousand talents actually finds time to sketch and paint and produce some excellent stuff while he’s not busy sharpening his many skills.[sigh]
If you want to take a look at his work, he exhibits at The Rebecca Hossack Gallery in Charlotte St, London – check it out for details of exhibitions.
It’s actually quite difficult to write a page on Derren Brown. Where to start … mmm, difficult … more difficult still, where to draw the line and stop. There’s so much to say about him that it would really require a book, rather than a page! But my purpose here is not to showcase all his talents (that would take a separate, dedicated web site), but merely to draw your attention to the fact that he is an astonishing performer, and that his memory skills play a big part in his work.
Derren Brown’s memory techniques
As he has openly discussed on television and in his books, he uses many traditional memory techniques, of the kind you can learn on this site. He ‘places’ items to be memorised at various ‘locations’ in his mind. This is the Memory Palace method, where a person mentally constructs an inner world through which he can wander at will, and in which he can store any number of things. He incorporates memory journeys and the Major System and probably a dozen or more other systems and techniques that can be seamlessly fused to create a memory system that is beyond excellent.
Needless to say, he also uses the technique of creating weird and unusual associations between things, since that very quality is what most fascinates the mind and makes it sit up and take notice. His artist’s eye for colour and detail no doubt helps him in this regard, but we should remember that we can all employ these skills, at least to some extent – you don’t need to to be able to actually paint a stunning portrait or a caricature to be able to mentally ‘see’ the details you’re thinking about.
We all have magnificent imaginations – in fact, it’s what defines us as creative beings, as much as anything else does. And we should all aspire to use our imaginations creatively to construct a fascinating and endlessly-useful personal memory palace of our own.
Yes, be astonished at Derren Brown’s skill, and be entertained by it. But most of all, be inspired by it.
Derren Brown’s show, Fear and Faith, is discussed in some detail in Derren Brown, the placebo effect