That was an entertaining evening...
We got the 3.49 train to Derby, arriving at around 4.30, and made our way to the Assembly Rooms to pick up the tickets. The last time we were there (some point last year, might even have been 2006), the entrance to the Eagle Centre from the subway was blocked off for redevelopment - they have now finished that redevelopment and it looks very nice indeed. The shopping mall has been extended (although it does probably mean that they've destroyed the shops out the back, including the funky comics/memorabilia-type shop and more than likely the huge Wilkinson) and they've put Debenhams and M&S there. I completely lost my bearings for a moment until I found Sainsbury's.
It looks very impressive indeed; if they ever finish rebuilding the bus depot to make it less of a concrete monstrosity, the city centre will look even more impressive. Which is nice, because at least if there's some decent shopping people might visit Derby for more than being a gateway to the Peak District... although judging by the posters at the station, it may well provide lots of traffic to London and hence Europe, as it goes directly to St Pancras...
Anyway, that was a little confusing at first, but I like it. Definitely want to go back there for a bit longer in order to do some shopping or at least have a better look around.
After that, we picked up the tickets and had a wander to suss out food options, also stopping for a drink in Coyote Wild. Eventually I decreed we should go to Baracuda because the one in Birmingham is rubbish (it's part of the same chain but due to its location tends to be more of a nightclub than a pub, at least as far as I can see), as the other option was Walkabout and/or the Wetherspoon pub - and, well, we have one of them around the corner from home. Barracuda was the place we went to last time where we had a sharing platter which comprised half a farm, and aside from that the food used to be really nice - vaguely Caribbean-themed with spicy sausages and burgers and things.
So, I was ultimately disappointed to discover that they've abandoned their interesting food in favour of a bog-standard pub menu - scampi and chips, steak, stuff like that. Bah. Clearly what the general public want is not interesting Caribbean-style food but boring stuff which you can get for half the price at the nearest Wetherspoon (which would have more choice, ultimately)... We had a sharing platter as it was the cheapest option, and even that wasn't too intersting, comprising onion rings, chicken dippers, breaded mushrooms and cheese-&-chilli bites, with some wedges. The cheese-&-chilli things were interesting, but everything else was fairly meh... It filled a gap, at least.
After eating, we played a couple of games on the gambling machine, then headed over to the Assembly Rooms. The programmes were a fiver (fairly reasonable, considering) and even though the tickets said "restricted view", the only thing I couldn't see properly was the screen at the back of the stage...
Before Derren appeared he played a focusing exercise on the screen. Firstly he made the audience read some phrases out loud where the letters of the words were jumbled up (taht tinhg werhe you can siltl raed semtoinhg if the fsrit and lsat lteers are in the rghit pacle...) and then asked us to watch a video of some people playing table tennis, where we had to watch the players in white in the background, ignoring the players in black in the foreground, and count the number of hits the white players totalled. Once you'd done that, he asked, "But did you spot the gorilla?" - the point being that if you're focusing on something else you will ignore something obvious like a gorilla jumping in to play table tennis. Although I did think at one point that one of the black players had become larger... To further prove this point, throughout the first act there was a banana on a stand, stage-right, which would be taken by a man in a gorilla outfit at some point during the proceedings. And obviously, everyone missed it. ;)
The first half involved Derren's usual fare of 'mind-reading' tricks involving members of the audience. I was going to explain them in detail, but as the show will more than likely be televised at some point, I don't want to spoil too heavily. I only mention the gorilla incident because I've seen something very similar done on television before by someone else...
The second half was Derren being an 'Oracle', a technique that was popular in the 20s and 30s, and demonstrating how table tipping is fake and all down to suggestion. During the interval he had got a hundred or so people to write questions inside opaque black envelopes and leave them in a bowl on stage, with only their initials and their position in the theatre (area and row) on the front. From this he would deduce the person's first name, age, and question, and then answer the question. Naturally, every single one was spot on.
The funniest bit was when, after specifically asking only for over-18s to fill out the question cards, he picked up one which just had someone's initials on. He said it was a 16-year-old male who had more than likely been egged on by his mates and then chickened out at the last minute, and the question was probably something like "Why are you a wanker?" He threw it into the audience to open up and it said, quite succinctly: "COCK". ;)
After the cards he blindfolded himself and got people to 'send' questions using their minds, picked up on some random people and answered them, including some really bizarre ones. He ended this the same way all oracles would have ended their act.
At the end he opened up a box which had been hanging from the top of the stage all evening, which contained information he had written prior to the show about things which would happen (or, obviously, things he would influence to happen in whatever way...), including who would end up reading out said information...
Aside from the usual fare of WTF-ery, he's genuinely very entertaining to watch and very funny, although I'm still convinced he's the Devil incarnate - an image which he doesn't do anything to dispel by wearing that goatee...
Afterwards we did a bit of a lurk at the stage door: Paul's very first one! As there weren't too many people (maybe about 15) the stage manager or whoever let us walk straight through the theatre, meeting Derren halfway to sign programmes and whatever. He did say there would be no posing for photos but since I had my phone out Derren was good enough to shift a little closer to Paul so I could take their picture. Not so much Satan incarnate in the flesh, and actually a very nice man in a beanie hat. And he had his own pen, which always gains extra bonus points. :)
I haven't done a stage-door-lurk in a long while. I haven't seen very much, really, and the last couple of times I was midway through Being Insane and the overwhelming apathy sucked any energy for lurkage out of me. Which is a shame, because I've seen both Jason Donovan and David Bedella (Satan in Jerry Springer) in things and would have liked to get their autographs... although I have Jase already. ;)
We got a taxi to the station (a grand total of £3.80 because in Derby they don't charge you an extra 90p for the privilege of getting in...), caught the last train back at 11.15 and got home shortly after midnight thanks to getting a taxi from New Street (£10.00 - at least they didn't charge us extra for 'luggage'. Black cabs in Brum are a rip-off).
So, apart from the disappointment at Barracuda, a very pleasant evening. I will scan the programme later, and also get the Samsung phone software installed in the hope that Paul's phone will work, as I can't get mine to work properly any more, and then I can bluetooth the photos over and post them... There shall be some Derren-esque icons soonly. :)
I still don't completely agree with Derren's theories on mediumship - whilst its true that they all use 'cold reading' techniques, I've seen enough to convince me that sometimes, it can't all be down to coincidence or the person interpreting things to their own ends. I would like to believe that there are people out there who are 'sensitive' to these mysterious energies, just as I can't help but think there must be more to the end of your life than just, well, death.
It's fair enough, though - Derren is a very intelligent bloke with the mind of a scientist. Mostly I just wish he wasn't associated with the Bad Psychics website, because it's taken the concept too far. It's not a comprehensive list of fraudulent psychics and mediums - if it were, it would be a brilliant concept, as it would save people from a lot of heartache and expense - because it jumps on 'popular' mediums in the public eye, such as Derek Acorah, David Wells and Jonathan Edwards, trying to 'debunk' them (and also Most Haunted) as frauds and fakes who are intentionally setting out to deceive people. Rather than being a useful information or warning service, it's full of viotriolic sniping. Unfortunately the medium-haters lap it up. I'm hoping that Derren may have associated himself with the website in its early conception (before it jumped on the bandwagon) and his name being attached to it is the website's own little nod at 'credibility'. But you know, Derren is also the patron of a parrot zoo, and you don't see them bemoaning all the other, non-parrot zoos as being something less than them. If you see what I mean.
The point is: the scientists and parapsychologists can argue it all they like, but there are some things which are still beyond the realm of physical science. There are things which can certainly be detected by science (electro-magnetic fields, ley lines, etc) but that doesn't mean we can explain them. Shows like Most Haunted are not setting out to deceive people - and even if they are, it's not to the extent that Bad Psychics.Com preaches; they are setting out, above all else, to explore these unexplainable things and continue the age-old pursuit of proving there is something after death. Above that, they are providing us with some fantastic entertainment, and really, that's all that matters.
I believe in Most Haunted, even though I may have stopped watching it, but that was for a variety of reasons. (Mostly, I liked it when it was clique-y, not when it gained popularity, because it grew too big for its boots.) I believe in mediumship when it's done well, and I believe that we have a lot to learn about this sort of thing. Derren's argument is with genuinely bad or fake psychics (and I'm sure there are a lot of them about) but until we know more about it, until we can prove something, nobody's word is gospel...
I mentioned some of that stuff before when I first had a proper look on Bad Psychics.Com, but it deserved to be reiterated. ;)
Must do some work now... photos coming soon.