The last two weeks have been a delightful hiatus in Birmingham, a city I really like. It was re-vamped a while back with such pride, and the area around Brindley Place in particular boasts enough great restaurants to keep a foodie like me very happy for a fortnight. Bank Restaurant is top of the list, being where I spent pretty much every afternoon, and Loves nearby was a really excellent new find.
It’s also a great city for the tour, as the staff of the New Alexandra theatre are beyond compare. We are lucky enough to have met some really excellent, super-friendly crews during our tours: the Alex bunch are a particular huge joy. Kim, the general manager, had made me an astonishing photo print as a welcome gift, along with some excellent whisky. More of that please. Thank you everyone there, it’s always such a treat.
The famous Brum friendliness was evident at stage door: numbers are so large outside now that it’s always a bit of a rush, but everyone was super-lovely and didn’t seem to mind. We added a tiny new bit to the show that seems to be working well, on top of the improvements we made back in Oxford. The process of continually trying to improve and tweak is one of the real joys of touring, and of course helps keep the show feeling fresh for me.
I donned the classic hat and shades celebrity disguise for a day-off trip to Alton Towers one afternoon with the gang, and we soared and dipped and vomited on Nemesis and Oblivion and Air and all the rest of them. I rather like 13, for what it’s worth. I like a bit of old-fashioned big dipperiness. A bit of plummeting punctuation to my rides. Nowadays it’s all on the one note, all the same velocity and turny-twisty.
Last year I remember riding everything, including the hilarious and terrifying Oblivion, as many times as I could, like a six-year old high on Fanta, and found later that I had strained my throat with all the tension and nearly lost my voice. So this time I was more careful. (Also, I remember, last year we had Jennie with us, who added stage blood to our faces and blackened up our teeth with make-up so we could look horribly damaged in those mid-ride photographs they sell at the exits. I recommend this game unreservedly.)
The past weeks also brought a night where a chap fainted twice on stage (during, for those in the know, THAT bit). Twice! I’m sure it all looked like part of the show, but it provided the sort of extra excitement that I live for.
Tonight is our first of three nights in Northampton. I believe it’s also home to a Torchwood convention this weekend. I wonder what sort of cross-over demographic will emerge. I’ll watch out for John Barrowman costumes or sudden bursts of ‘I Am What I Am’ in the stalls. (Do I have that right? I honestly don’t have a TV so I don’t really know what I’m talking about).
Righty-ho, carry on about your business. Pleased that the Rapture hasn’t affected show attendance, though I did find myself wondering at a couple of second-half empty seats in the front stalls last night.
The picture shows the rubbish collected from just ONE QUARTER of the stalls the other night. We’re such a filthy bunch.
The following venues for Svengali 2012 are now on sale:
27, 28, 29 Feb and 1, 2, 3 March – Milton Keynes Theatre
26, 27, 28 April – Princess Theatre, Torquay
You can find a complete listing of announced tour dates so far over on the main site (click here)
Matt Galley, star of ‘Hero at 30,000 ft’, is auctioning for charity the first two of the three jack-in-the-boxes left at his doorstep during the filming of the special.
Here’s what he says on his eBay page:
Hello my name is Matt Galley,
Last year i had the fantastic opportunity to be part of a Derren Brown special called Hero At 30,000…I was an ordinary guy looking for a break and a bit of a helping hand…
I found an advert to be part of Derren’s show and i knew that if i was going to break out of my habits then, as a life long Derren Fan, he would surely be able to help me.
For those of you who saw the show you will know that Derren left cool little Jack-In-The-Box’s on my door step to show my progress through the transition from zero to hero
I want to try and help someone in need like Derren did me, so as a result i would like to auction off two of the props so that i can raise some money for SAVE THE CHILDREN who help young children in Africa get clean water, mosquito nets and a education.
So if you are a Derren fan, and want to get your hands on a small piece of his history then please let’s raise as much as we can!!
Thanks to you all,
Tickets now on sale!
20 February 2012 – 25 February 2012
Click here to buy
Losing The Voice. The fundamental fear of any touring performer.
After a week in Oxford working and rehearsing 10am-3am for a week, and then shouting every night with barely an evening off, the voice started to suffer. If it packs in, we have to start pulling shows, which is a nightmare to be avoided at all costs.
The first casualty is the signing queue. A few years ago, there were never more than fifteen or twenty people at the stage door, sometimes only four or five. Now there are normally seventy to a hundred lovely people who have decided to hang around in often freezing or rainy weather conditions to say hello and have me scribble illegibly on their programmes and/or chesty-parts. Already I’ve noted with sadness this year that this means I can’t spend the relaxed time I previously enjoyed chatting with people after the show: to get through so many people means something of a conveyor belt of scribbling and asking people to take photos as we go along rather than stop. On top of this, the tour schedule is relentless and with several 6 am starts, so the pressure is on to get back to the hotel and wind down and get what sleep might come my way.
So there were a few nights when I was unable to come out and sign, and there will be a few more on tour, I’m sure. I know it makes no difference to anyone who comes on a rare night that I can’t come out, but rest assured I do make more of an effort than most performers to spend time at stage door after a show. Most, sadly, devise ways to avoid people completely. I hope that in a run of around a hundred and fifty shows I’ll be forgiven a few where health issues dictate I have to sneak away to a warm bed.
Now some of you may remember the chocolate martini fun from last year in Newcastle. This year on arrival, I was greeted by the Mal Maison with Chris (the bar manager’s) latest version of what I now like to think is something of a classic. So top marks to them. The George Shaw exhibition at the Baltic in Gateshead (apologies for considering it to be Newcastle on Twitter) was just stunning. It may still be running. Running and stunning. Edinburgh provided the usual bright, lively and gorgeous audiences that it’s known for. The huge Playhouse was packed out every night and was a particular joy. I met up with my pal Richard Wiseman and had an excellent lunch at the Café Royale, which, I decided, is where I would spend every afternoon if I lived in Edinburgh. What a great city. I also bought there my first cravat. After a few weeks of tucking my scarf inside my shirt and quite liking the foppish look, I am now the proud bearer of a spotty, sporty number. It’s my ‘thing’, I’ve decided.
‘Derren Brown? Who’s that?’, people will ask. ‘The cravat guy’, others will answer.
Getting to Scarborough with our massive set and trying to get it into that theatre for the show time caused the same problems we had in Grimsby. The show went up very late again. It’s hugely embarrassing when this happens, and enormous, heartfelt apologies to those people who had to ask for refunds due to time restrictions. We have a harsh tour timetable and a walloping, time-demanding set which are not very compatible, and when we meet a theatre which is tricky to set up in, we do everything we can with all the tireless extra crew we have summoned, but have now twice been unable to make the start time. It was a real testament to the ladies and gents of Scarborough that they were still a hugely delightful, lively audience after that horrendous wait. Last night there also brought a series of odd outbursts from a lady in the stalls who then had to be asked to leave… a bit of drama, all rather exciting.
We’re now in Sheffield, after another horrendous ‘get-in’ and realising that one of our major props had been severely damaged the night before on the way out of Scarborough. These setbacks caused us to start a little late and Coops to confide it was probably the worst day of his working life, but we got there in the end and the show went well. Today I am writing with Iain, my co-writer, on next year’s TV projects. Finally, I am this morning visited by a mysterious flatulence of Wagnerian magnitude; the length, breadth and depth of which is pleasantly pervading the breakfast foyer of my hotel. Sadly, having arisen quite late, I am eating alone: my generosity is passing unnoticed. Perhaps I’ll come out to sign tonight only to be sent straight back in by the queue.