Posted by: Natalie | May 18, 2011


What are the chances of that? With my current reading obsession still fluttering through my head, how happy was I to get to the Alexandra Theatre last night to find that Derren Brown’s show focussed around very similar ideas. The staging of his Svengali show was that of almost a mad scientist’s laboratory; lots of bronzed pipes, cogs and wheels while a furnace sparked away (well, the lights flickered!) while the ‘big screen’ twisted open and shut like some ancient camera lens. You could well imagine a room like this in Derren’s own home, where he tinkers away with his demonic devices! Definitely a super villain in the making.

The show itself builds to the focal point, Svengali itself. Whilst waiting for the show to begin, Steve and I contemplated what we thought ‘Svengali’ actually meant. I think we came up with the idea of an Asian orientated mystic with clairvoyant style abilities. We were quite far from the truth as it would happen – the name Svengali is apparently best known as a character in George du Maurier’s 1894 novel, Trilby,  a lady with hypnotic powers who turns the title character into a talented singer. However, according to Mr Brown, Svengali was originally an Eighteenth Century Automaton, a self contained mechanical doll created by an eccentric mourning his son. The machine was sculpted to resemble the child and sat eerily awaiting its master’s commands.

Obviously, giving details of the show is something of a no-no. It would be unfair to spoil the drama of the evening, even to so few readers, but suffice to say it was yet another eye opener. The automaton itself was terrifying – like something from a porcelain doll nightmare. I have always had a little fear of such creatures as I am absolutely certain that they come to life at night preying for blood, each with their own set of perfectly formed razor sharp teeth. This life size version was worse! So frightening. However, it is apparently going to displayed in London’s V&A at the end of the tour and I would very much like to visit it, if only to find out the truth behind Derren’s tales.

Not Svengali himself, and by no means as terrifying, but an Automaton all the same!

Other than the scary monsters the show has its usual mind bending twists and turns which we have all come to know to the mad magician; a man shooting his wife and apparent demonic possession – your average Tuesday night I suppose! Plus plenty of audience participation which puts you on the edge of your seat, either for desperately wanting to go up or with anxiety NOT be next! It was fabulous. Expensive, but well worth every penny (apart from the pennies robbed from us by Ticketmaster. Grrrrr). Really good fun, but I didn’t feel it was as good as his previous show Enigma. It was just as challenging on the old grey cells and left us just as speechless but there was an element of fun which was replaced with ominous dark. You would have thought that this would be more my cup of tea, but nothing can quite compare to ending to show with a silly sing song and confetti canons!

Bravo Mr Brown! You have done it again, left countless people flabbergasted and terribly envious of your incredible abilities. I look forward to seeing what you do to deceive next.



  1. i saw the show on c4 on tuesday, and i saw the ad and i said to my mum, ‘that looks ace ‘ and it was, the 2 things i wanna do before i die is see svengali and see mr browns show live 😛

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