Radio review: Derren Brown an entertaining subject on Desert Island Discs

Nuala McCann

Desert Island Discs Radio 4

Mentalist is the technical term for what he does says Derren Brown.

On live television, he has hypnotised a woman into believing she died in a car crash. Convinced middle managers to commit armed robbery and had one man believe the world had ended leaving only him and a few zombies.

His chat with Lauren Laverne for this episode of Desert Island Discs looked back at a childhood when, in his own words he was “precocious and charmingly revolting” and on to teenage years when he practised a nifty sleight of hand in Harrods.

He started big – at one stage, he confessed, he looked around his bedroom and realised he had shoplifted “every single thing”.

A Luther Vandross tape proved to be his undoing – he was sneaking out of Harrods music department with Luther in his pocket when the alarm went off and he was approached by the security staff.

That was the end of the habit for him.

On to university and he drew a portrait of a young man who had long hair and liked to wear a cloak and retreat to a cave on the edge of the Avon Gorge where he'd light a bonfire and settle down to read Nietzsche.

You could say he was fond of attention. There was the time he used liquid latex to scar up his eye. It began small and grew – with more and more latex - and he couldn't get out of his eye injury story.

Pity his poor student housemate who was upset because he had been making beer in the bath and thought the fumes were causing Derren's eye allergy.

The young Derren fancied himself as a poet philosopher but was really channelling his inner “gay female leisure pirate”, he joked.

Brown was, as usual, entertaining to the hilt. He was also very self deprecating and self aware. He made it clear that those who take part in his shows are very carefully vetted and supported.

The music was heavy on the melancholic classical and the book choice was the Collected Works of Carl Jung.

Mentalist and illusionist are trite labels – he's many fathoms deeper than that.

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