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Unbelievable at the Criterion Theatre

Although Derren Brown does not appear in Unbelievable, the latest “magical show” to open in the West End, it bears all the hallmarks of the man who began his career performing table tricks in a Bristol restaurant and is now – surely – the greatest “psychological illusionist” in the world of magic and deception. This is hardly surprising for Unbelievable is written and directed by Brown, together with his long-time collaborator and winner of the Magic Circle’s prestigious Maskelyne Award, Andy Nyman, and also with Andrew O’Connor, who directed Brown’s 2015 show Miracle and is a former winner of the Magic Circle’s Young Magician of the Year.

Unlike Derren Brown’s own shows, the fantastically entertaining Unbelievable is loosely structured as a story, with a very funny and perfectly executed first scene that recalls the opening of Ghost Stories, the portmanteau horror play by Nyman and Jeremy Dyson. This is followed by a sequence of increasingly baffling illusions. While a couple may not be as novel or mysterious as the show’s writers might think, the overall promise of the show’s title is more than met in the ensuing two hours of magic, comedy and “saxophone subway” music.

Among the cast of Unbelievable is an outstanding Simon Lipkin who could easily deliver an evening’s entertainment on his own. Others include an effervescent Yolanda Ovide who performs a delightful ‘red balloon’ sequence with a young audience member, Hannah Price, a multi-talented “musical telepath” and Laura Andresen Guimarães – like Price an actress and musician but also, as seen in one of the show’s most jaw-dropping moments, an apparently extraordinary contortionist. The contribution of Alexander Bean and Izaini Batista Nascimento Junior is mostly musical while the final performer, Samuel Creasey, is every inch a star in the making, whether riffing with the audience or performing a “mind-reading” act and, in the final section, displaying the comic timing of a much more seasoned performer. Nonetheless, this is very much an ensemble show and, working together, the cast of Unbelievable deliver a fantastically entertaining evening that is not to be missed.

Unbelievable is a co-production with Colchester’s award-winning Mercury Theatre, one of Britain’s most innovative regional theatres and the venue where the show premiered in August. The other producers are Derren Brown, Andrew O’Connor, Michael Vine, Paul Sandler and Kenny Wax for Unbelievable Productions, and Illusion Design is by the legendary ingénieur and author, Jim Steinmeyer.

Highly recommended

4 stars

Review by Louis Mazzini

UNBELIEVABLE features a live band and a magic company of multi-talented performers with extraordinary gifts who bring to life, on stage, an evening of trickery that will leave audiences amazed.

The audience will become an essential element of the show from the moment they set foot in the theatre – the beating heart of the production. No two performances will be the same.

Created, written and directed by UK stage and screen phenomenon Derren Brown, and long-time collaborators Andy Nyman and Andrew O’Connor. After decades of appearing on stage solo, this will be the first time that one of Derren’s shows will be performed by a cast rather than himself.

Laura Andresen Guimarães (Cast/Musician)
Izalni Batista Nascimento Junior (Cast/Musician)
Alexander Bean (Cast/Musician)
Samuel Creasey (Cast)
Simon Lipkin (Cast)
Yolanda Ovide (Cast)
Hannah Price (Cast/Musician)
Samuel Brenton (Understudy)
Emily Redlaff (Understudy)
Rhys Shone (Understudy)

Criterion Theatre, 218 – 223 Piccadilly, St. James’s, London, W1J 9HR
19 September 2023 to 07 April 2024 (Previews are 19-24 September)
Age Recommendation: 9+

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