Thursday, March 31, 2011

e-Mail the AboutDerrenBrown blog

I have posted my new e-mail address on the sidebar --->

Here are 3 good reasons to send me an e-mail:

1. Suggest a topic. Am I missing your favorite Derren Brown trick? biographical event? trivia?

2. Give a tip. Do you have a hot lead or other information you want covered on this Derren Brown fan blog?

3. Ask a question. If you ask, I'll try to answer. And if the question is compelling enough, I might address it on the blog, as well.

Svengali Poll Results

The AboutDerrenBrown poll about whether visitors to the blog are going to see Svengali has closed. Here are the final results:

Are you going to Svengali?

Yes = 28 (87%)
Maybe = 1 (3%)
No - but I wish I could = 3 (9%)
No - and don't want to = 0 (0%)

I know a lot of our regular visitors here are going to the show, and it has become clear in the last couple of weeks that many people who do not usually visit drop by before going to the show.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Review: Derren Brown, Behind the Mischief

To celebrate the 10-year anniversary of Derren Brown's first appearance on Channel 4, the television station had a Derren Brown evening, which began with a new documentary: "Derren Brown - Behind the Mischief."

Behind the Mischief is the most personal on-air biographical material Derren has shown us to date. The 50-minute special is well worth your time. Here are a few of the highlights:

1. Film of taxidermy in Derren's home. Previously, I thought his interest in taxidermy was just part of his stage persona. Apparently not. The best piece is probably the 8-legged lamb.

2. Interview with James Copeman, the guy who put the bullet in the gun for Russian Roulette, and was generally terrified throughout his 15 minutes of fame.

3. As it turns out, Derren met Iain Sharkey (now a co-writer of his) when Sharkey appeared as a volunteer on the Seance special. Behind the Mischief includes footage of Sharkey screaming on Seance.

4. Derren reveals the show of his that he is least happy with: The portion of "The Event" series where he offers a misleading explanation of how he predicted the winning lottery numbers (he claims it was by averaging a group of volunteers' guesses).

5. A scene at DB's parents' home, in which his brother also appears, followed by a reminiscent visit to his childhood school.

There are plenty of other good moments, including a follow-up visit with Matt Galley, the subject of Hero at 30,000 Feet. For serious fans of Derren Brown, it is a must-see.

Derren Brown Plays with Lemurs

Derren Brown has been a donor/spokesperson for the National Parrot Sanctuary and Zoo for some time, and, according to his most recent blog post, he recently took a break from the Svengali stage show tour recently to stop by and play with the parrots and lemurs.

See Derren's post -- Tour So Far -- for pictures of DB with lemurs, as well as an account of how the tour is developing.

Secret of Derren Brown Svengali's 9889 (SPOILER ALERT)

I have posted a couple times now about what the number "9889" might mean in Derren Brown's new stage show, Svengali. I am told now that 9889 is supposed to be the number of mechanical pieces in the Hungarian Svengali device/automaton/robot/doll that is the centerpiece of Derren's new show.

I have not seen Svengali myself, so I cannot confirm this from firsthand knowledge. Also, I assume the 9889 number has some greater significance as part of the Svengali trick.

Now if I can just figure out what "4 8 15 16 23 42" means...

Derren Brown Svengali Taping -- This Year or Next?

In the past, Derren Brown has videotaped a live performance of each of his stage shows for later broadcast on television and dvd release -- so it stands to reason that he will do the same with Svengali. A recent forum post speculated that the taping will probably occur next year (2012).

Although I am not aware of any statement by Derren on the topic, that theory makes sense. Svengali is running for two years (2011 and 2012), and obviously DB will want to wait until he is very well-rehearsed before taping the show. Many commentators have said Svengali has been a little rough in its first few showings.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

9889 and Needles in Derren Brown's Svengali (SPOILER ALERT)

The number 9889 is turning up in numerous posts about Derren Brown's Svengali, and obviously has some significance to people who have seen the show.

Also, the stage show reportedly includes a volunteer(s) going up on stage and putting needles through his/her skin (reminiscent of various past Derren shows, including the Robbie Williams episode).

As noted previously, a mind-reading automaton named Svengali is the centerpiece of the show. The back story is apparently that Derren claims to have bought the mind-reading doll in Hungary.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Meet Derren Brown in person at Svengali

Dozens of people hang around after Svengali each night to meet Derren Brown in person, and he is apparently gracious and friendly with everyone (despite undoubtedly being exhausted). If you want to meet Derren in person, there is no better time to do it.

Here's a YouTube video of the post-show scene outside a recent Liverpool performance of Svengali (I would apologize for the poor lighting, but it's not my video):

Derren Brown Svengali Brochure

Even if you can't make it to Derren Brown's Svengali, you can get the Svengali Brochure from DB's online store: Svengali Brochure. The website lists the contents of the brochure.

It doesn't seem to give away much about the show -- mostly just typical Derren facts and humor -- but it might be worth a look.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Derren Brown's Svengali Hand-Stamp -- What's that all about?

A couple of Svengali attendees have posted pictures of their hand stamps. For example, see this one: Hand Stamp, which includes the caption "9889: Derren Brown Svengali - you have to be there to understand!"

What is the hand stamp all about? It's part of a trick, obviously. Does Derren select volunteers based on the number stamped on their hand? Or is something else going on here?

And here's another photograph of the stage, taken at the March 24 Liverpool show, apparently: Svengali Stage. The flickr caption calls this the "opening stage set," implying that the stage looks different later in the show.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Help a fellow Derren Brown fan preview Svengali

I have a request for those of you going to Derren Brown's Svengali stage show. Thanks to the new AboutDerrenBrown poll (over there --->) we know that many of those visiting the blog at the moment are planning to see Svengali. And we can safely conclude that they are visiting this blog pre-show, to get an idea of what will be in the program.

Unfortunately, experience shows that, when such visitors go to the show, Derren sweet-talks them into not telling anyone else what has gone on. They then publish blog posts online about how the show was great but they can't reveal anything.

Those of you who are here before going to the show -- after you've seen Svengali, remember how you feel right now, and then do us all a favor by coming back to this blog (yes, bookmark it) and posting some details about the show in a comment or two. There are plenty of people like you who would love to have that information.

And telling people what is going to happen at Svengali does not ruin the show for them (Was the movie Titanic disappointing because you knew from the start that the boat would sink? Of course not. It was disappointing because of the idiotic script).

If anything, it builds buzz -- which makes me think that Derren Brown's plea that you not reveal details about the show might actually be a negative suggestion designed to make you reveal the details to others and create word-of-mouth publicity for the show. So let's do that.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Derren Brown's Svengali is not the first Mind-Reading Robot

Svengali is reportedly a mind-reading robot in Derren Brown's new stage show. While Derren's robot undoubtedly works through a mix of illusion, misdirection, showmanship, etc..., there is a real-life mind-reading robot that works through science:

Derren Brown Cringes at the Past

I've often thought that if you are constantly learning and improving yourself, then you are bound to regret your past actions (i.e., things that you did before learning what you know now). Derren Brown made the point much more eloquently in an interview with the Guardian a while back, and I just came across the quote:

“I always look back on myself and cringe. . . . I feel I’ve learned so much about how to behave in the last 10 years, and I view everything before that as . . .” He tails off into a wince.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Are you going to Svengali? (new survey)

I'm busily digging up every detail I can find about Svengali, which I will continue to post for your blog-reading pleasure. I have also posted a new survey over there --->

Take a second to vote and we'll see how many Svengali attendees we have in our midst.

Photo of Derren Brown's Svengali Stage -- Robot/Automaton Theme

A flickr user has helpfully posted a photograph of the stage at Derren Brown's Svengali stage show. The picture (apparently taken pre-show, judging from the sparse, attentive, and seated audience) shows a blue-lit stage with three tables spread across it. Each table appears to have a covered object on it.

The decor of the stage (i.e., edges and top) has a robot/automaton theme, which is appropriate because Svengali is apparently a mind-reading robot/automaton of some type. The photo (according to flickr) was taken March 18, 2011.

Don't take a gift to Derren Brown's Svengali Stage Show

Derren Brown is happy to see his fans at Svengali -- as long as they don't bring gifts. In a tactful message on his blog, Derren asked his die-hard fans to refrain from bringing presents to his new stage show:

"[I] must gently ask again that people don’t turn up bearing gifts, as some regularly do: they’re very hard to keep hold of when we’re touring and you spending your money on tickets is more than super-kind and embarrassingly generous enough."

So, if you're feeling compliant, leave your Derren Brown gifts at home. But if you're feeling mischievous, an over-sized teddy bear could be a nice gesture.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Why Svengali? Deciphering the name of Derren Brown's new stage show

Derren Brown is calling his new stage show "Svengali." So what does Svengali mean?

Svengali is the name of the hypnotist character in George du Maurier's novel "Trilby," which was published in 1894. Svenali created the pop-culture stereotype of an evil hypnotist who controls a vulnerable woman (in the case of the novel, a singer named Trilby).

In the past, Derren has avoided stereotypes about hypnotists and magicians, but this time he apparently is taking them head-on. As noted previously, the Svengali trick itself involves an automaton, apparently named Svengali.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Change Blindness -- Illustrated by Derren Brown

UX Magazine posted an article about "change blindness" a while back, illustrated by a video of a Harvard study and by Derren Brown's classic on-street illustration of the effect.

The idea of "change blindness" (see Wikipedia for more) is that when we are made to focus on particular details, we miss other obvious pieces of information that are presented to us. In the videos posted by UX, observers fail to notice that the person they are speaking with has turned into another person, because they are so focused on another fact/task.

While change blindness is obviously useful to an illusionist, being aware of the effect can be worthwhile for anyone.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Derren Brown Reunion with Fake Drunk Guy

Remember the Derren Brown episode where he gets a guy drunk with hypnotic suggestions? After a showing of Svengali in Brighton this past week, the fake drunk guy met up with Derren Brown for a bit of a reunion. You can see it in an excellent video posted by xLadyClairex on YouTube, beginning about 2 minutes in: Drunk Guy Reunion.

Also, just 12 seconds into the film you see a glimpse of a mannequin, which might be the Svengali stage prop.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Why "Confessions of a Conjuror" is a Brilliant Autobiography

I'm just finishing Derren Brown's "Confessions of a Conjuror" (finally), an autobiography with an unusually high quantity of footnotes and tangential ramblings. Plenty of readers have criticized the book for these features, but I actually think it is quite good.

Through his rambling writing style, Derren has provided what no other biographer could possibly provide -- a look inside of his mind as it operates on a daily basis. He writes about unusual thoughts that no one else writes about (witness, ege, his lengthy analysis of the awkwardness of seeing someone start to get off an elevator at the wrong floor). But it all serves a purpose.

Friday, March 18, 2011

What is Derren Brown's "Svengali Doll"?

In his latest stage show, Svengali, Derren Brown is (as usual) asking the audience not to tell others what happens in the show. Consequently, the internet is full of very vague reviews of the show. But we can glean one key detail from bliter's account of the show:

Svengali is an "automaton" that reads minds. This is reminiscent of the televised DB trick in which he pretended to be a mechanical mind-reading device. Here, though, obviously Derren will be outside of the machine. Thus, a stand-alone machine will somehow be made to reveal details about audience members.

It's kind of odd that DB would choose to use a prop as the centerpiece of his show -- but that simply implies that it is an unusually impressive prop.

For a full explanation of what we know about Derren Brown's Svengali, see my article: "Derren Brown Svengali Spoilers."

And to read all about Derren Brown's career, see my unauthorized biography of Derren Brown.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Svengali = 3 Hours of Derren Brown

The Latest published a review of Svengali, Derren Brown's new stage show, which opened March 9, 2011. While the review reveals nothing about the show's content, it gushes about how good Svengali is, and reveals that the production is three hours long.

Derren intends to perform this feat of endurance about 60 times in the next four months. You can see the list of show dates here: Svengali dates.