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  • Writer's pictureSarah

Derren Brown's 'Unbelievable': Magic Reimagined' reviewed at the Criterion Theatre

When you think of magicians, what comes to mind? I'm forever haunted by the episode of the IT Crowd where Jen realises that she's dating a guy who looks like a magician (black hair, trimmed beard and black polo neck jumper) and feels she has to end the relationship. The poor guy has no idea why, or what happened.

Derren Brown has worked hard over the years to lose that kind of image and to shake up the magic world. Derren Brown has now created 'Unbelievable - Magic Reimagined', claiming that it's the magic show he always wanted to see. He's co-written the show, but is NOT in it. Indeed, none of the cast are professional magicians, instead they are actors, musicians and improvisors, all bringing something fresh to this otherwise somewhat tired genre of entertainment.

The 1874 listed Criterion Theatre is rather pretty, and not too big for this show created by Andy Nyman, Andrew O'Connor, and of course Derren Brown. I couldn't help but feel though, that despite all the attempts to involve audience members seated in the circles as well as in the stalls, that this would have been even better in a cabaret style venue.

Whilst we waited for something to happen on stage Yolanda Ovide, followed by a camera operator, made her way through the the audience, chatting and asking favours. These favours would become part of the show later with Hannah Price performing the actual illusion.

The show starts with members of the cast coming on stage playing various musical instruments, building on each others riffs. This seemed to go on a bit too long, but the music was a recurring theme throughout the show, and the glue that bound it together.

Man holding a clear glass jug of water
Simon Lipkin about to turn water into alcohol

Simon Lipkin skilfully acted as both compere and showman. Taking the theme that we are all magicians and illusionists, only choosing to show the outer part of ourselves. He particularly shone in the section set in Prohibition where he turns water in the participants drink of choice through a combination of illusion and hypnotism.

Woman sitting at a piano with many hands touching her shoulders and arms
Hannah Price about the play the tunes that the audience members touching her have in their heads

Also of note was the section where Hannah Price reads the minds of a selection of the audience to play the song they were thinking of on the piano. The looks on their faces as she nailed it was great.

Samuel Creasy brought a great deal of humour to Darren Brown's Unbelievable; he was the perfect cheeky chappy.

This show was suitable for children, with one 9 year old taking to the stage, and clearly having the time of her life. It was refreshing to see a show which was family friendly whilst engaging for adults too.

Woman stepping into a box, each arm held by a man on either side
The skill of the Magicians assistant demonstrated

There was a humorous nod to the greatly under-rated talents of 'magician's assistants' whose whole role is to make the magician look good.

The finale was amazing, but rather reminded me of Marius Brill's book, 'How to Forget' where the illusionist goes to extreme lengths to find out information to astonish the audience. (This is a cracking read by the way). I can't reveal what it was as we were sworn to secrecy, but it really was a great end to the show.

I think that 'Unbelievable' will become one of those anchor shows in the West End that runs and runs; it's great fun, family friendly (age recommendation 9+), and there's always that chance that you might get to be part of the show. Every performance will be different depending on the audience, so you know that you'll be experiencing something unique.

Criterion Theatre

218 - 223 Piccadilly,

St. James's,

London, W1J 9 HR

Nearest tube: Piccadilly Circus


Prices start from £20.00


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