Derren Brown: The Gathering, Channel 4

by | May 29, 2005 | All, Reviews

What to say of you liked it

The master of psychological illusions confounds a select audience of the great and good with more of his masterly magic.

What to say of you didn’t like it

A scrawny little man with a dodgy ginger beard curries favour with the lowlife of London Town in a scabrous spectacle of self-indulgence.

What was good about it?

• Derren’s tricks are wonderful to behold; whether he’s guessing what the League of Gentlemen’s Reece Shearsmith secretly drew based only on his knowledge of Reece’s comfort in performing on stage, or employing a convoluted cacophony of bluffs and double-bluffs to coerce a member of the audience into choosing a portrait of his pet parrot over a cheque for a grand, Derren is rarely less than mesmerising.

• Loading up the audience into blacked out buses like sheep on the way to the slaughterhouse added to the ambience of intrigue.

• Even though Derren had a sprinkling of celebrities in the audience, he hardly gave them a look-in aside from Reece Shearsmith helping out (which was random), Krishan Guru-Murthy’s acting as a stooge in a phone number trick and the occasional An Audience With… camera shot of Al Murray applauding or Jonathan Ross looking bemused.

• When the kitten landed in the lap of Derren’s mother, hampering his efforts to find someone who’d he’d never met before.

• Derren predicting the exact route a London cabbie would take from Buckingham Palace to a completely random destination in the capital. And then trumping it by revealing the “random” location the cabbie had driven to in his imaginary journey was the secret location they had gathered at – the Shepherd’s Bush Empire.

What was bad about it?

• As Derren subliminally inserted words and phrases into his performance to compel the audience to forget what occurred, we might have fallen victim too making it damn difficult to remember particular details. What did Derren get mixed up with boa during the demonstration of how he had memorised the A-Z of London, and what did Jean Christophe Novelli do at the start of the jamboree?

• Jean Christophe Novelli’s role in the intro. We’re not quite sure what he did; it may have been because of Derren’s trickery or perhaps it was so rubbish we’ve already forgotten.

• Members of the audience were selected to participate by a fluffy cat toy being randomly tossed around the rows. One of Derren’s tricks was to predict who the cat would be thrown to (an attractive woman), which he got right if Jeanie been 20 years younger, so we’ll give him that. But the answer to the question: pick any country in the world was a little suspicious. The answer Jeanie gave was Africa – which as anyone, aside from the geographically illiterate, will know is a continent. Now either Derren used a duplicitous magician’s ruse to extricate himself from her answer or he planted in Jeanie’s head a compulsion to say “Africa”. If it’s the former, we’re very disappointed, but if it’s the latter we’ll genuflect before his deified image for a year and a day.

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles


Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!


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