We round up the reviews for Derren Brown’s new show now playing in the West End.
The Guardian: *** “Brown’s novel adventure in magic-by-proxy offers plenty to enjoy, then, even if it’s never quite as astounding as when he performs the tricks himself.”
WhatsOnStage: *** “Technically, Brown, O’Connor and Nyman’s multimedia staging is impressive, and the cast sell it for all it’s worth. The lack of real substance would perhaps be less obvious if the whole thing was shorter and sharper, or if it wasn’t performed in a traditional proscenium arch theatre. However, there’s probably enough humour, glitz and moments of sheer wonder here to make audiences feel like they’ve got their money’s worth. Meandering but entertaining, and, I suspect, a solid commercial hit.”
The Stage: *** “Glossy magic show from the Derren Brown team is mildly diverting but bland.”
Time Out: *** “It’s just that the illusion that these performers are magicians doesn’t always hold. They’re brilliant actors. They’re brilliant musicians. They’ve learned to do these tricks brilliantly. The astonishingly versatile Simon Lipkin, who deservedly gets the most stage time, commands proceedings with natural delivery and a sense of authority, and Samuel Creasey has an easy, loveable presence. The rest don’t get much to do, though, and sometimes the cracks in the polish are too evident: nervousness in the execution, slight faltering when things go off-script.”
City Am: *** “Musical theatre and magic are natural bedfellows and I’d like to see the idea of a full theatrical experience with singing and dancing and magic developed further. There is a mind reading pianist who guesses songs from audience members (I went up on stage so can vouch she wasn’t exclusively choosing planted people from the audience), a bit where hypnotised ticket holders become convinced water was wine, and tricks that made people disappear and reappear from spooky-looking cupboards.”
The Arts Desk: *** “Unbelievable is a strange title for a slightly strange show, the brainchild of Derren Brown, Andrew O’Connor and Andy Nyman, a trio with an impeccable pedigree in creating successful magic-based events.”
Theatre Weekly: “Stage design and props are also impressive. With a mix of smaller, sleight of hand tricks with rings, cubes or balls, and proper parlour acts with large stage props, the set design keeps changing accordingly. While simpler design is used for more modern tricks, vintage props and styling appears when we look at Unbelievable’s take on the classics. Fringe backdrop and a rotating platform on the stage allow the magicians to play with space, teasing us with the trick’s backside while keeping its secret to themselves.”
West End Best Friend: **** “An evening of pure entertainment and devilish delight – wryly humorous and even surprisingly moving, Unbelievable is a riotous night out.”
Broadway World:*** “If you are new to Brown’s live shows you will be very impressed. If you have seen some of his live work before, you will see several tricks and illusions that look rather familiar. This doesn’t make them less impressive, but dulls the element of wonder in the novelty.”
All That Dazzles: *** “Unbelievable is a deeply clever show, whether it is revealing how a trick is done or regularly blowing your mind, leaving me constantly awestruck as I failed to work out how the acts were done. Highlights to look out for are a trick involving the taste of water, a truly satisfying and sensational segment involving an amazingly skilled musician and a quite beautiful trick involving cast member Yolanda Ovide with a balloon.”
London Theatre1: **** ” The contribution of Alexander Bean and Izaini Batista Nascimento Junior is mostly musical while the final performer, Samuel Creasey, is every inch a star in the making, whether riffing with the audience or performing a “mind-reading” act and, in the final section, displaying the comic timing of a much more seasoned performer. Nonetheless, this is very much an ensemble show and, working together, the cast of Unbelievable deliver a fantastically entertaining evening that is not to be missed.”
The Reviews Hub: *** 1/2 “There’s something wonderful about watching magic on stage. There’s a realness to it all that doesn’t get delivered when watching on TV. Unbelievable feels just like that. You’re watching things happen that you can’t believe is happening.”
Lost in Theatreland: **** “I left the theatre feeling completely dumbfounded – unable to even string a sentence together of what I had just witnessed. This show has single-handedly changed my perspective on magic. It is truly a one-of-a-kind experience. More than anything, what really sets this show apart is the clear heart that fills it. From the cast to the script, it is clear that this production has been brought to life with people who have a passion for magic, being less focused on the “sparkle” of a perfect illusion and instead trying to build genuine human connection with the audience. “
Everything Theatre.co.uk: ** “There are one or two highlights, most notably Hannah Price’s impressive ability to deduce the song a series of audience-sourced pianists are thinking of, just from the involuntary movement of their fingers as their hands rest on her shoulder – although the fact that all participants were taken out of the room before being allowed on stage did lead some in the audience to doubt the veracity of the effect. But most of the tricks are tired routines, and the show is almost entirely devoid of spectacle. The show promises ‘jaw dropping illusions never before seen in the West End’; but the West End deserves better than this.”
Derren Brown: Unbelievable continues to play at the Criterion Theatre until the 7th April. To book tickets click here.