Derren Brown’s “Secret”

By Danielle Farrell-Bannister

A boisterous crowd at the Cort Theater on Broadway grew quiet as strict instructions were provided before mentalist Derren Brown’s “Secret.” No re-entry upon leaving the theater, no photos in the auditorium for the show’s anonymity, and a health warning to look away if feeling light-headed. As the audience will soon learn, Brown is as serious about keeping the details of his show secret as he is good at unearthing the secrets of others.

Words then appear on a screen:

“Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.”

Translated, the paragraph reads, “According to a researcher at Cambridge University, it doesn’t matter in what order the letters in a word are, the only important thing is that the first and last letter be at the right place. The rest can be a total mess and you can still read it without problem. This is because the human mind does not read every letter by itself but the word as a whole.”

The show continues as the audience listened with quiet anticipation to Brown, 48, explain he had studied hypnosis since he was 19. “I studied magic, I think to impress people and the quirkier corners of human psychology and the power of the perfectly placed lie,” he said. “And I will be using all three of those techniques with you this afternoon.”

Throughout the performance, Brown, a British performer and television star, used witty humor and read body language to influence the crowd. He selected volunteers from the crowd by throwing a Frisbee into the audience.

A minimalist stage set

In one act, Brown painted a portrait after mentioning that he is not a good painter. Later he revealed to the audience that he had switched costumes and did not actually paint the portrait. Brown also used memory, personal experiences, and imagination during the show. “I have to be honest with you sometimes, but I’m always honest about my dishonesty,” said Brown about his methods.

“Secret” is an acronym, revealed at the end of the show, but suspense builds throughout the performance. Brown relays instructions and the crowd concentrates on the results. The audience helps to reveal how the Secret is actually an acronym for names of animals that were previously written on a card by Brown and drawn by the volunteers.

An entertaining experience, Derren Brown’s: Secret left the audience in awe.

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