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Slick tricks and patter prove Derren Brown is the real deal

Theatre<br />DERREN BROWN<br /><strong>Adelphi Theatre</strong><br />Derren BROWN has been on our TV screens long enough now for most of us to be fairly familiar with his shtick, but that doesn&rsquo;t make seeing it live anything less than a wholly mesmerising experience. I can&rsquo;t think there&rsquo;s a more joyfully entertaining evening to be spent in a West End theatre at the moment.<br /><br />Bearing the title Enigma, Brown&rsquo;s new show involves a catalogue of deceptions, illusions and tricks of the mind strung together by his quickfire patter. Each set-piece is based around his interactions with audience members &ndash; frisbees are thrown out into the auditorium at random &ndash; and while it would be a disservice to divulge too much of what goes on, suffice to say that standing still in front of Brown won&rsquo;t stop him unpicking your most arbitrary thoughts.<br /><br />The show is ostensibly about Brown showing that what we think is happening by chance is in fact all for a reason. He debunks the supernatural, playing the rationalist while making us delight in illusions that fly in the face of logic.<br /><br />All that would be nothing were he not such a courteous and likeable stage presence. The gags come thick and fast, each as carefully devised and set up as his tricks, but no less enjoyable for it. Brown likes to recreate Victorian tricks to put the boot into ancient superstitions, and there&rsquo;s more than a bit of the old fashioned showman about him. <br /><br />This is entertainment as charming as it is dazzling, with a finale that is sure to leave you breathless.<br /><br />THE WINTER&rsquo;S TALE <br /><strong>The Old Vic</strong><br />Sam Mendes and Kevin Spacey&rsquo;s Bridge Project, which tours the world with a starry Anglo-American cast performing two plays, is ambitious. As well as Chekhov&rsquo;s The Cherry Orchard (reviewed last week), the cast have taken on Shakespeare&rsquo;s romance The Winter&rsquo;s Tale. Perhaps a cleverer choice than the often-performed, but difficult-to-get-right Chekhov, this is one of the Bard&rsquo;s odder works &ndash; somewhere between tragedy and comedy, whimsical, tragic and funny, and every bit as wonderful as Twelfth Night or As You Like It. <br /><br />At the heart of this slick production is a storming performance by Simon Russell Beale as the impulsive, sensitive Leontes, King of Sicilia. On suspecting that his queen Hermione (overacted by Rebecca Hall) is having an affair with their house guest Polixenes, King of Bohemia, he throws his toys out of the pram as only a king can: with a murder plot (foiled) and by imprisoning his wife. <br /><br />The staging is spare but expensive-looking; angst-ridden Sicilia is meant to be England (signalled by the English accents) and is dark and hung with dozens of candles, while Bohemia, with its jolly pastoral setting, japes and high-jinks is America. Ethan Hawke giveProxy-Connection:keep-aliveCache-Control:max-age=0an enthusiastic performance as the Bohemian rogue Autolycus but it is Sinead Cusack, who plays Hermione&rsquo;s champion Paulina, who is Beale&rsquo;s equal &ndash; deeply competent, obviously in command of her part and the play, and utterly mesmeric. The three hours pass with just the right balance between gloom, philosophy and humour. <br /><br />THE KING &amp; I<br /><strong>The Royal Albert Hall</strong><br />A classic crowd-pleaser Rodgers and Hammerstein&rsquo;s musical may be, but in the Albert Hall it&rsquo;s really too big a crowd and too big an auditorium even for this show. Just as the Royal Festival Hall&rsquo;s production of the Wizard of Oz at Christmas had all the atmosphere of an empty aircraft hanger, so The King &amp; I loses too much of its intimacy and, worse, drama in these vast surroundings. It&rsquo;s time we accepted that concert halls are for concerts and just left it at that.<br /><br />None of that is the fault of the performers, who give a fine account of themselves. Maria Friedman has plenty of Angela Lansbury-esque charm as Anna, the English widow who arrives in Victorian-era Siam to become tutor to the king&rsquo;s 67 children, and delivers songs like &ldquo;Whistle a happy tune&rdquo; and &ldquo;Getting to know him&rdquo; beautifully. Daniel Dae Kim &ndash; well known to viewers of the TV show Lost &ndash; may not be much of a singer, but he&rsquo;s a sturdy presence as the king, and brings a pleasing touch of vulnerability and humour to the role.<br /><br />But even with a huge (albeit underused) cast and majestic set, including water with floating boats, the sweep of the show is dwarfed by the dimensions of the hall. The fact that it&rsquo;s done in the round doesn&rsquo;t help, but what should be a richly absorbing experience becomes