Derren Brown has spent a lot of his career performing magic shows on theater stages — but he’ll be the first to tell you that magic usually doesn’t make for great theater.
Listen to this week’s podcast below:
“If you’re a magician of any sort, you can make stuff happen with a click of your fingers and you’re sort of a god figure … Dramatically, that’s not very interesting,” the mentalist and illusionist said on Stagecraft, Variety’s theater podcast. “We find heroes interesting, and being a hero means that you have to suffer, and there’s a challenge of some sort. So that makes magic generally, I think, quite bad theater.”
For Brown — who recently kicked off a Broadway run of his Off Broadway hit “Derren Brown: Secret” — the trick to making drama out of magic lies in making his shows about the audience, and in giving the crowds something to think about.
“I think there is something really valuable about magic that is not very often tapped into,” he said. “It’s a great analogy for how we live in the world and the stories that we form. The very idea of a narrative, the idea of being huddled around a fire telling a story … is, in its inherent coziness, shutting out the world that exists further away, outside of the firelit clearing. A whole world of things that are being excluded. And of course that’s what a magician is doing. There’s all this stuff that’s going on you don’t know about, but he’s asking you to tell yourself a certain story.”
Brown can quote everyone from Peter Brook to Mike Nichols in citing the things he does to make his shows as theatrical as he can. He proved it on the latest episode of Stagecraft, while along the way noting his love for Shakespeare tragedies, outlining the difference between American and British audiences and revealing how he got himself banned from casinos all around the U.K.
New episodes of “Stagecraft” are available biweekly in July, August and September, with a weekly schedule resuming in October. Download and subscribe to “Stagecraft” on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher or anywhere finer podcasts are dispensed. Find past episodes here and on Apple Podcasts.