How can I read minds like Derren Brown?
This is a question we get asked a lot at the Merchant of Magic. Derren Brown is a world class entertainer at the top of his game so we can learn a great deal from watching his performance and taking that experience and using it as a springboard to generate ideas for our own style and presentations. Lets look at some tips, and tools that we know of that can help you on your quest for knowledge!
Firstly it would be wise to make it clear that Derren Brown uses a whole range of techniques, he is skilled in all types of magic and mind reading and has lots of toys at his disposal. However with a bit of thought and clever routining and good scripting you can create the illusion that you are nearly as skilled as he is!
The real secret of making people feel as if you have read their mind, in the way that Derren Brown makes people believe, is found within his performance. It really has nothing to do with the trick itself. You can perform a simple playing card force or even an elaborate chair routine with three climaxes, but if you do not present it in a way that is warm, well received and engaging, it will not get the desired results.
Here are some key points to help you master how to read minds like Derren Brown:
Speak clearly and at a pace that is calm and deliberate, DO NOT mumble and speak quickly.
Stand tall and proud, this gives off confidence and assurance
Rehearse your lines, so you do not get tongue tied
Research the phenomena you claim to be demonstrating, it always helps if you do actually know about what you claim to be a master of.
Remember that mind reading and mentalism doesn’t usually focus on props. It’s a conversation, an interaction between the performer and the audience. A full, balanced act could simply involve the performer, a note pad and a pencil. Because of this, it’s essential to make the presentation as interesting and varied as possible.
Many of the secrets of mind reading are very simple from a technical standpoint. This allows you to focus on the entertainment created by the routine, and that you are holding the attention of the audience. Performing a simple and easy routines like, for example, Any Word by Ben Williams means that you can, with NO SKILL whatsoever, predict ANY word a spectator can think of. Because Any Word comes with suggested patter, it’s designed to make you concentrate on delivering the patter in a convincing manner. Good mind reading magic tricks are structured to be as simple to perform as possible, yet their mechanics ensures the spectators really feel that you have influenced them into thinking of that word.
Another important point to remember is that mind reading needs to be frames within a greater context. A show that involves simply having people think of a word, then revealing it, over and over again would soon lose peoples interest. Even though the feat is impossible and incredible, it needs more that just a demonstration of mind reading abilities to keep people entertained. If you watch one of Derren Browns shows, you can learn a great deal about how to 'mix up' essentially the same effect (revealing a thought) in different ways. His show is carefully constructed to provide changes of pace, sections of comedy and serious demonstrations of apparent psychic and paranormal activity. The whole show is a presentation around a theme, rather than a collection of separate disjointed 'tricks'.
If you put thought into the construction of your act, and focus on entertainment rather than mechanics, you will find that mind reading and mentalism are one of the most rewarding branches of magic to explore and perform.