He’s one of magic’s most con­tro­ver­sial fig­ures but Der­ren Brown isn’t the con­fi­dent en­chanter of his stage per­sona. In­stead, as ED POWER dis­cov­ers, the man dubbed a men­ace to so­ci­ety by the UK tabloids talks about how he tries to wield the power of hyp­nos

Irish Independent - Weekend Review - - FRONT PAGE -

He’s played Rus­sian roulette on live tele­vi­sion and caused par­lia­men­tary up­roar in the UK when ap­pear­ing to pre­dict the Bri­tish na­tional lottery num­bers.

But per­haps the great­est trick ma­gi­cian, hyp­no­tist and “mind hacker” Der­ren Brown ever pulled was mak­ing us think the debonair, slightly sin­is­ter fig­ure he cuts on stage and on TV is what he’s like in real life.

“As with a lot of peo­ple who get into per­form­ing, I was a bit in­se­cure when I was younger,” says Brown, who re­turns to Ire­land with his new show, Un­der­ground, next week. “In real life I’m prob­a­bly shyer than peo­ple imag­ine.”

There was a time when a fa­mous ma­gi­cian could ex­pect to be­come a na­tional trea­sure. Look at Paul Daniels in the UK or David Cop­per­field in Amer­ica (more on him in a bit).

But those days are over — in this part of the world, es­pe­cially, the num­ber of ma­gi­cians with gen­uine celebrity sta­tus can be counted on one hand.

Top of the list, ar­guably, is 47-year-old Brown who first cre­ated head­lines with a 2003 TV spe­cial on Chan­nel 4 in which, at an undis­closed lo­ca­tion in Jersey, he played Rus­sian roulette on live TV — ap­par­ently put­ting a revolver to his head, spin­ning the bar­rel and pulling the trig­ger.

There was con­ster­na­tion, with the tabloid me­dia in the UK up­braid­ing him as a dan­ger to so­ci­ety. The po­lice weighed in — tech­ni­cally Brown was break­ing the law by pos­sess­ing a firearm without li­cense.

Back­lashes sim­i­larly fol­lowed his na­tional lottery stunt and a 2004 tele­vi­sion “séance” in which vol­un­teers con­tacted a “dead” girl, only for it to be re­vealed she was in a trailer at the back of the stu­dio.

Brown doesn’t be­lieve in the para­nor­mal — so it was ironic that the lat­ter broad­cast should re­ceive hun­dreds of com­plaints to the ef­fect that he was pro­mot­ing the su­per­nat­u­ral.

“I don’t have very thick skin — when it comes to mas­sive pub­lic at­ten­tion it can be quite dif­fi­cult to avoid, due to the na­ture of so­cial me­dia,” he says in a low voice that con­tains traces of posh­ness yet is nowhere near as plummy as the one he de­ploys on stage.

“You often feel you’ve done some­thing wrong. It is odd, some­times, hav­ing some­thing picked over and ques­tioned. But maybe that’s how it should be — per­haps it shouldn’t ever feel com­pletely nor­mal.”

Brown was an only child un­til age nine and, as he says, never fit­ted in with the cool crowd. In his youth, he was crip­plingly in­se­cure and over­com­pen­sated by be­com­ing an at­ten­tion-seeker.

His sal­va­tion, he feels, was at­tend­ing a hyp­no­tist’s show when he was study­ing at the Univer­sity of Bris­tol. Magic be­came a pos­i­tive out­let for his need for ap­proval.

“I was never sporty at school and was was in­tim­i­dated by that set. I be­came a ter­ri­ble at­ten­tion-seeker,” he re­calls. “I look back at my­self at that age, I think I must have been pretty re­pul­sive.”

Af­ter the show in Bris­tol, magic took over his life. He’d had a magic set as a child and had watched Paul Daniels. But now he be­came ob­sessed. Brown prac­tised com­pul­sively and, to his mild

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