Bay audiences set to fall for Derren's Valentine's magic
TV illusionist Derren Brown has got three dates in Torquay this Valentines' weekend.
But not all is as it appears for the man who specialises in bewitching his audience.
He won't be exchanging love tokens on February 14.
But he will be appearing at the Princess Theatre for three dates on his national tour.
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And though he is looking forward to returning to the Bay the prospect of nights alone in a Torquay hotel room at the most romantic time of year is not quite so dazzling.
He says: "There will be my team of five or six of us. I'm sure it will be fine."
But there are likely to be some in the audience who will be happy to keep him company.
Derren attracts a band of loyal followers who turn up at most dates on the tour.
"It is always nice to see some familiar faces," he said.
One would be his old landlord, who, he tells me moved to Torquay some years ago.
Derren tells me: "He started off my taxidermy obsession. If you read this, come and see the show."
I ask him if he is toying with me.
"No, no," he replies, "it's absolutely true."
Taxidermy, of course, would be a natural obsession for a man who dabbles in the macabre.
He examines the paranormal, magic and illusion — strange things indeed, but not as strange, it seems, as the truth itself.
Derren taken magic and mind-reading into new realms.
He is seemingly able to predict suggest and control human behaviour, while claiming no special powers at all.
This unique combination of talents makes for compelling viewing.
His TV work often cuts close to the bone — remember the red button to kill the kitten or the woman who thought she witnessed her own death in a car crash?
Derren says his theatre show Enigma is much more light-hearted than it may sound.
He said: "Some of the TV stuff can be quite serious in places. But this is fun and light hearted.
"It is a shifting show, sometimes funny and in turns serious.
"For me, it always starts with what's the most exciting to do with that many people trapped in a room with you for a couple of hours."
Derren has been touring Enigma for two years but it has been tweaked here and there.
And Derren says that stage performance is more fun than TV work.
He said: "When touring I get to travel around with my best friends, do a show I love and I'm confident people will enjoy, and have all the adrenalin that comes with performing.
"With TV there are constant enforced changes, restraints, and frustrations that sap much of the joy out of it.
"With the tour, once it's rehearsed, I only have to go out and have the pleasure of doing the show, changing it as I like at my own pace."
Derren likes to take his particular type of illusion to new levels.
The only limit on his set-ups, he says, is taste.
And it is the tongue-in-cheek, the knowing wink that acts as the sugar to help the medicine go down.
"We want the show to be exciting and exhilarating.
"There is a wit to the performance which, if it wasn't there, would just be cruel and unpleasant.
"That is of no interest to me at all."
Derren jokes that he shows disturbing tricks to toddlers in queues when their parents aren't looking.
But he tells me that life for him is much more conventional.
He said: "In real life it never occurs to me to play up to that image. If I did I would never be able to have a normal conversation with people.
"It's funny, when at first people meet me, they think I'm reading their minds, but to be honest, I don't even think of it. I don't play up to that."
But on stage and TV, he is in a class of his own.
His Mind Control, Trick of the Mind and Trick or Treat TV programmes have attracted rave reviews and award nominations around the world.
His specials have provoked much controversy and acclaim and consolidated his reputation as a performer prepared to constantly challenge and break boundaries.
The only illusionist that comes close to Brown's style is magician David Blaine.
The American has been an influence, said Derren.
He said: "His first shows when he took magic to the streets changed the way magic shows on TV were made.
"Before that it was mainstream light entertainment.
"Post Blaine, it was about people's reaction and that made a huge difference to the way magic was shown.
"He has a certain vision of himself with the stunts that he does.
"I do not see myself moving into that. I am happy doing what I do."
Derren uses the props of ghost hunters, borrows the spectacle of Victorian seances and uses the techniques of psychics.
But he does not reach the same conclusion that something may be out there.
Rather, he holds up these methods, shines a light through them to show there nothing there at all.
Derren insists it is his responsibility to clarify that what he does is not paranormal.
"The same skills are used by people claiming to be psychic and people trying to debunk it."
But there is no point in being a killjoy.
"The allure of magic will always win," said Derren.
This subject is further explored by Derren in a future documentary series.
He said: "I've been spending some time with people making paranormal claims, and I'm going in with a genuine hope for the evidence to hold up.
"I spend my life fabricating supernatural power, so I'd love it all to be true.
"Of course, extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence, so at the same time I know what to look out for and not get fooled. It's been a fascinating project, and more complex that I imagined."
Derren is performing at the Princess Theatre on February 13, 14 and 15.