This summer, Z.Y. and I were delighted to get to see “Secret”, sitting next to some well-known NYC players such as Dan White and Steve Cohen (hope you’re enjoying your amethyst surprise btw, Steve), which generated a fantastic energy between the audience and Derren. While we could talk about many of the fantastic elements in the show, we’re going to explore perhaps one of the most overlooked, yet important, elements of magic which Derren (and his team) executes perfectly: Scripting.
Being familiar with his work, this surprised me; but Derren Brown scripted pretty much every single moment of this show. From the opening monologue to his hypnotic inductions even to his seemingly impromptu jokes and ‘responses’ to audience member reactions, it’s all pre-planned and rehearsed. While sticking with this approach allows for less immediate response the night of the performance, it does allow for Derren to dive deeper into the nuance of his language throughout the show, layering numerous presentational ideas and through-lines within the performance, as well as carefully covering several subtle method-moments, and the result is absolutely mind-blowing.
Knowing the methods for the effects makes it even more fantastic, because his whole performance is steeped in this lovely mixture of sincere charisma and careful attention. He is a living masterclass in all the details that make something go from 90% to 100%, and this is why he is undoubtedly a star of magic. In this show, he doesn’t employ any overwhelmingly mechanically unique or “new” effects (although the effects are very well-crafted and consistent in conception and methodology, and his take on ESPacology is devastating) and remain powerful on their own, yes. However, when these straightforward effects are combined with his excellent showmanship and language, they are taken into a completely separate realm — one of awe.
Everyone practicing magic has something to learn from Derren; he’s established himself as a critical thinker of magical presentation with his early books such as Absolute Magic and Pure Effect, and the level of skill, commitment, and attention to detail exhibited through the script of “Secret” is something that everyone can draw inspiration from.