Derren Brown on why "we should remember the acts of kindness"

Derren Brown believes in a strange way his Showman tour – which comes to Eastbourne’s Congress Theatre from Thursday to Saturday, November 4-6 – has probably benefited from the enforced break.

Derren Brown - Showman
Derren Brown - Showman

The multi award-winning master of mind control and psychological illusion was just about to launch into technical rehearsals when the pandemic struck.

But successive lockdowns have proved a chance to hone the show – a show which was suddenly particularly appropriate for our times. It is his first brand-new theatre show in six years.

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“It is lovely being back, but just also that whole notion of being in a theatre full of people again, just that ordinary day-to-day business of touring. It felt so alien!

“I was lucky that I had other things that I could do so I didn’t feel low in that sense, but it did feel like extra time to go back and revisit the show and rewrite the show and to do a lot of the work that we would have been doing during the previews when you are moving things around. We managed to do most of that.

“We were just about to start tech-ing when the pandemic hit, and I think because it was affecting everybody, you just went with it.

“I was not too bothered in that respect. We knew that we would be doing it at some point.

“It was just not clear when, and then we had the process of delaying and then a false start when we thought we could do it except it was just too optimistic.

“That was awful because you just feel bad for all the people who have had their hopes up. And that’s what is difficult because you feel you have let people down, when you have got audiences lined up. But I do think that the show is better for it.

“Before the pandemic, the show was about all the things in life that feel difficult and isolating that tend in fact to bring us together.

“It was quite literally playing with that theme.

“It is a very personal show, and it has ended up being a show very much for this moment which wasn’t necessarily something we expected when we wrote a show with these themes.

“We have looked back into it and changed it a bit and it has ended up being a show which for people is quite cathartic and quite personal.

“I am 50. I have tried to do work that has grown up with me on stage, and so every show has felt different, but this feels like a grown-up show.

“This feels like the show of a 50-year-old rather than a 30-year-old’s show.

“It feels different in that sense but there is also that other thing in the air where just the act of going to the theatre feels fresh, plus all the extra goodwill in the air at the moment.”

Derren hopes that that goodwill will survive our return to normality.

“I took a jacket in to be altered to a place that I use all the time and it had closed and reopened, and it was the first time I went back, and it was like I was suddenly really aware of the human connection.

“There was so much that I was wanting to say, what I had been through, what they had been through. It was just exciting to be with people again.

“It felt like a bit of dirt and grime had been lifted, like when a painting has been restored.

“We were all a little bit more conscious of being back in human connection, and I felt the same thing when I first went back to a restaurant, but within two minutes I was grumbling because the soup was cold.

“It’s terrible how quickly people go back. But I do think these things are important and that we should all try to remember it. We should remember the acts of kindness.

“We will remember the difficulties and the anxieties, but we should also remember that they were shared difficulties.”

Tickets from the venue.