Review: Derren Brown's Infamous at the Palace Theatre leaves us dumbfounded by his trance trickery

Infamous, Palace Theatre, London

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The Independent Culture

As far as it is possible for us mere mortals to tell, Derren Brown only made one slip tonight. It came right at the end of the evening and it was a literal one, caused by a piece of paper discarded on the stage. The showman allowed himself the briefest perturbed look before regaining his trademark composure for the big finish to a show that includes hypnotism, superhuman feats of memory and the coolest of cold readings.

The frivolous climax (a ticker tape affair, ironically) almost seemed at odds with what is probably Brown's most understated show yet.

Infamous plays out on a set that has the appearance of an underused warehouse (reminiscent of Punchdrunks Tunnel 228, but with more entertaining content), even though the The Palace Theatre's surrounds would be the perfect companion to the Victoriana that has characterised the look of his previous summer bouts of mentalism.

The stripped down feel of the set (occasionally enhanced by various projections) is paralleled by Brown laying bare some personal episodes from his life: from being bullied at school to bossing it on casino poker tables in his twenties, before being banned from them.

Delving into his past life helps Brown introduce the idea that we are trapped by certain patterns and in his subsequent set-pieces he gives free will a bit of a pasting. During one multi-layered subliminal scenario, involving boxes chairs and envelopes, he quips to one audience recruit: "Please don't think that whichever one you choose is going to tell me everything about you."

Though for the seasoned Derren-goer the 42-year-old's bouts of intensity, his sometimes over-egged instructions to audience participants and his feigned concern that his set-pieces might go wrong, have become like tells, you could never leave one of his shows quite feeling like you had seen it all.

As ever audiences are beseeched by Brown not to spill about the thrills, but suffice to say that his trance trickery leaves both his audience recruit and the rest of us dumbfounded and his tongue-in-cheek homage to mediums, if anything, makes the frauds look better than they ought to. Meanwhile, Brown's ability to divinate the name of a family pet has audience almost indignant with amazement.

Runs until Aug 17, 0844 874 0789