WARNING: At the request of Derren himself, no journalist or reviewer is permitted to reveal any of the tricks performed during the show. However, this review does make reference to evangelical faith healing and other such things, due to the show theme.
In 2011, Brown released a show on Channel 4 called ‘Miracles for Sale’ which explored the techniques of faith healing and the many scams based off of this process. He aimed to discredit faith healers by using a member of the public, posing as ‘Pastor James’, to perform these so called miracles in America. Their adventures made for great television – but Brown also made a serious point: that faith healing exploits those it claims to help. This theme was revisited in his 2015 – 2016 tour of ‘Miracle’.
In this show, he shows his many reasons for disliking the scam practises of faith healing which are so prevalent these days; such as the extortion of money from those with illness for a fake healing, which can cost upwards of £1000 and thus the encouraging of abandoning medication under the assumption that they are now healed. “You have the despair of all those people who are no better – and it’s despair because they’re blaming their own selves and their faith for it not working,” he says. “And then you have these hordes of people who are following these healers round America; chronically ill people going from gig to gig to gig – and it just never happening, so there’s that wake of despair. And then there’s the money side of it.”
When faith healing shows like these are attended by tens of thousands each time, all donating money which goes straight into the pockets of faith healers tax free; such as the well-known Pastor Benny Hinn, who is worth $40 million. However, Derren also shows his grudging appreciation for some of their techniques for the relief and happiness they can bring when used without ill intent.
Brown stresses that his criticisms are aimed at faith healers, rather than Christians saying: “This is not an attack on God, or faith, or any of those things. It’s about a scam, a greedy scam that has nothing to do with God apart from the fact they mention his name a lot.” But as he admits, there will doubtless be some Christians who do take offence.
Throughout this show, we are reminded that the things we see are not acts of God but acts of a rather more awe inspiring notion; normal, human beings. We are shown everyday miracles and extraordinary feats, all with their own risks; yet how with a simple switching of your perspective a before daunting task becomes mere child’s play, with the risk suddenly disappearing as a worry.
Derren urges the audience at the start of his faith healing set-piece to “go with it”. “You have to suspend your skepticism”, he says: “it works only if you want it to work”. As we close our eyes and open our hearts to Brown’s pep talk throughout the show, some of the audience begin to become more open and a visible change comes across those susceptible to his positive persuasions.
Many that I was near that night felt no change, and indeed, a large majority felt no different through this trick; it was, in my personal opinion, a very emotional and affecting piece which has drastically changed my belief that the stirring faith healing techniques were merely enhanced by clever stooges, but real.
The entire second half of the performance perfectly summed up the emotions that us as the audience and Derren himself felt about this set, which made his last point all the more poignant to me.
I won’t tell you all of what he said in his final speech because it was something you truly had to be there to be able to understand, but his last words to the audience summed up the tone exceedingly well; “Life is like a piece of music,” he tells us, “and you’re supposed to be dancing.”
Well Derren, I certainly will be.