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 CafÃ© 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.
Some dates for the 2012 Svengali tour are starting to appear. We are happy to confirm that the following dates are on sale now:
Manchester – The Lowry:
5, 6, 7, 8 9, 10 March 2012
Click HERE for tickets
Southampton – The Mayflower:
12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 March 2012
Click HERE for tickets
The performance is not suitable for children under 12 years of age.
PLEASE NOTE: We cannot confirm or deny ANY other dates or venues at this point. A lot of fans are emailing to find out if Derren will be coming to a certain town and weâ€™re sorry we canâ€™t confirm anything until it is officially announced. We also canâ€™t confirm when tickets go on sale, this is decided by the venue.
With the cameras in hot pursuit, Derren faces his toughest project yet, going in search of an unsuspecting member of the British public prepared to adopt the guise of a pastor and miracle worker.
His chosen one then has six months to learn the trade and flourish across the pond as a convincing pastor.
The final phase of the volunteer’s extraordinary challenge sees them attempt to perform faith healing miracles live in Texas, but will Derren’s new recruit be accepted as a faith healer or cast away as fake healer?
The show will air tonight at 9pm on Ch4, 10pm on Ch4+1 and will be available on 4oD here.
Feel free to leave comments below.
I’ve just come to the end of a wonderful week working on changes to the show. This is something which we always do with the tours: the joy is to keep improving and changing and getting it as good as possible. Andrew O’Connor, one of the producers of the tour came over from LA to work on it with me, and Polly and Stephen came up too. We’ve spent each day rehearsing and talking and trying out new things each night. Some of the changes are quite small, others are large: it’s been like being back in previews in Brighton.
The last couple of nights we’ve made big shifts with the very end, which has been hugely exciting. The changes seem to have worked: the audience reactions do appear to be getting better and better. We’ve been doing notes after the shows until 2 or 3am, then up again for breakfast work, all-day rehearsals and then of course the shows in the evening. All that work has ended today and tomorrow we’re off to Sunderland for some relative peace and rest. Sadly this work has not left me any time to explore Oxford: such a beautiful city and somewhere I would happily come to live. But the audiences have been bright and gorgeous and the theatre an absolute dream. After the show, a lovely chat with Nicholas Hoult and his lady Jenny, who had graced the auditorium along with Doug Hodge and his wife Tessa Peake-Jones: my first celeb visits of the tour. Very exciting. Though I wasn’t entirely happy with the show as a stupid technical problem with the new ending upset the rhythm of things at a vital moment… but hey, whaddyagonnado.
Before Oxford we all had a great week in Norwich. The highlight was most likely us all heading to Adam Buxton’s farmhouse for lunch with him and his wife Sarah: you’ll be delighted to know that the afternoon began with Sarah’s exquisite food and finished with Adam showing us silly movies on YouTube. They are a glorious, generous, bright and brilliant couple.
You may also be interested to know that my friend Patrick Hughes has a new book for sale, entitled Paradoxymoron – click here to view. It was at the launch for this book that Alexei Sayle came over to speak to me. I’ve always been a fan of the great man, who was wearing a black suit and shirt: I plucked a white hair from the front of said shirt as we spoke to find that it was joined to his chest. Great one, Derren.
My Highland Park has run dry and I must get to bed. We’ve been staying at the Old Bank Hotel in Oxford and I have to say I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such astonishingly brilliant staff. It’s a terrific hotel, and we’re all hugely grateful to the entire team for making this stay such a pleasure. Thank you.
Right, nighty-night. Can’t wait for the new changes to bed in and feel second-nature. And I hope you like them too. Sleep well. I have just a few hours to try to do the same.
PS the picture of me was taken in Cromer by Dennis Grasse, a member of our team who is a great photographer. If you ever find yourself in the greenroom of the National Theatre, those are his on the wall.