Me and the fiancee went to see Derren Brown live last at the Royal & Derngate theater in Northampton. I’ve seen his stuff on telly before and was always a bit of a sceptic, but last year I was dragged along to see him live in Milton Keynes and subsequently had my brain properly melted by his insanely baffling magical fuckery. It blew my mind a bit, and I loved it, so I wasn’t going to miss a chance to catch him again on his latest tour, entitled Underground, when it came through our neighbouring town Northampton.
The show was the kind of stuff you’d expect from Mr Brown, especially given that the Underground show is made up of a selection of his favourite mind-bending illusions from the last 10 years, so there was hypnosis, mind reading, mis-direction tricks, tons of crowd participation, all the usual crowd pleasers, and the show was totally amazing – just as you’d expect from this master of his trade. Despite the show being amazing though, it wasn’t this that left the biggest impression on me as we walked out in to the cold wet Northampton night and joined the queue to pay for our car park tickets. Nope, it was the horrendously drunk 50-something lady sat next to us. Totally on her own, totally plastered, totally unaware of the glimpse she was providing into the future that could have easily lay ahead of me, had I not chosen to boot the drink for good nearly 2 years ago.
It was clear this poor lady had issues from the moment she shuffled past us into her seat, carrying 2 pints of lager and, judging by the bags under her eyes, the weight of the world on her shoulders. She was slurring and unsteady, but the giveaway was the smell. Stale booze, like she’d been drinking heavily for days. Maybe she had? I reckon that’s probably not far from the truth.
We had great seats, just 5 rows from the front, with probably 1000 people sat behind us (the theater capacity is 1200 and the show was totally sold out). The great seats meant a great view for us, but it also meant that the drunk lady’s random outbursts were not only disturbing to us unlucky folk sat near her, but also were in earshot of the great illusionist himself. The first half of the show brought us bouts of loud sobbing for no obvious reason, accompanied by loud proclamations about the clothes being worn by the ladies being invited up onstage by Derren Brown. Not only was this fucking annoying, it was also totally fucking inaccurate. At one point she shouted ‘Oh here’s another young lady wearing next to nothing’ at a girl wearing jeans and a long sleeve black top. No skin showing except for her hands and her neckline upwards. I was probably showing more skin for fucks sake. I was wearing a t-shirt!
The poor lady used the intermission as an opportunity to get 2 more pints of lager in, brought to her seat by the barman as she was unable to carry them herself. Surely this should have been a clue?? I flagged my concerns to the barman. ‘I think she’s already had enough mate,’ I told him. ‘No worries,’ he said. ‘Call an usher over if you need help with her.’ Dammit. I think people thought she was with us.
The second half is where things got interesting. Derren started by telling us he was going to show us a video that could have psychological effects, and that we should close our eyes and plug our ears if we were under 18, pregnant, or just didn’t want to watch. The drunk woman plugged her ears and closed her eyes tightly, but when the video’s accompanying drone noises started she began freaking out, shouting that she didn’t like it. She slurred loudly to Derren, the man himself, during a quiet moment in which people affected by the video were invited to stand up, telling him that she needed his help. He shushed her a few times, but eventually came down to talk to her. We had to move out of our seats so he could get in next to her and talk her around. The show stopped for about 5 minutes whilst 1200 people stared at me and Em, who were standing there, and Derren as he crouched before us and tried to appease this babbling drunk. I can’t deny, it was cool to get a chance to briefly meet the great man. Job done, drunkard quietened, Derren returned to the stage to get on with the show.
The next outburst was the result of another loud noise being played, just part of the show, which caused our lovely neighbour to start shouting ‘Derren! Derren that buzzing is in my head! Derren can you help me.’ It may sound like I’m making fun of the mentally ill here but I promise you I’m not. She may have had mental issues, she definitely had alcohol issues, but either way I’m not intending to take the piss. I’m just telling you what happened. ‘I’ll tell you what,’ said Derren, forever the kind and caring gent, ‘There’s only ten minutes left of the show. If you go outside I’ll come and talk to you afterwards.’
‘Okay,’ she slurred, before being escorted out of the auditorium by the ushers. But not before slowly caning the last half of her pint. Down in one, as 1200 watched on in silence, waiting for her to leave so the show could go on interrupted.
Derren’s big finale was epic, as you might imagine, with every loose end tying up nicely and a whole load of big reveals that afforded this magical being a standing ovation. As we exited the auditorium, slowly shuffling with the crowds back through the bar area and towards the main exit, I noticed that the poor lady we’d been sat next to had also had a big finale. She was sat in a cordoned-off area of the bar surrounded by ushers and 2 or 3 St John’s Ambulance first aiders, and had clearly pissed herself – evidenced by a large puddle under her chair, and large wads of sodden blue roll that had seemingly been used to mop up the escaped waz.
As we walked out I couldn’t help but reflect on the way I’ve acted in moments of booze hysteria. I’ve done some pretty fucking stupid things in the public arena. I’ve tried to grab the mic off a singer at a packed gig, and I’ve drunkenly shouted daft things out at shows which I thought at the time were funny, but were actually just piles of nonsensical bollacks. If I’d have carried on down that route would I have ended up in the same position as this poor lady? Halting a show whilst 1200 wait for me to drink my drink and then fuck off so that they can enjoy the rest of their night?
It sort of felt like I was in a version of the Truman Show, and out of all the places the drunk lady could have sat, she was placed right next to me. On purpose. By Derren Brown. A vision of my future self designed to scare me in to making better life choices.
A crazy notion eh? But if you’re reading this Derren – it fucking worked.