2009 is shaping up to be an exciting year for Keith Barry. Since winning the Merlin Award for ‘Mentalist of the Year 2009’, demand for his performances has gone through the roof, both in his native Ireland and on the star-studded Las Vegas Strip.
The magician and illusionist, who plays two dates in the Dean Crowe, Athlone this weekend as part of a massive Irish tour, says the coveted award places him in some illustrious company indeed.
“It’s the equivalent of the Oscars in the magic world. The past winners are like a who’s who of the great magicians - Penn & Teller, Paul Daniels, David Copperfield. It is a great honour to be associated with them.
“They don’t tell you that you are nominated, they just turned up to one of my shows in the Olympia to present the award,” he adds.
The new show, ‘Keith Barry - Direct from Vegas’ features the best of Keith’s magic including material from his Las Vegas shows, plus a compilation of brand new never-seen-before mind illusions, created especially for Irish audiences.
In fact, he prefers to bring his blend of illusions, mind control, and ‘beyond belief‘ effects to Irish audiences than American. “I prefer to tour here than in the States. It is great to play in Vegas, but here there is healthy level of scepticism; in the US people are more willing to believe anything. I like the challenge of trying to convert people. Within minutes of the show starting, you will find people who can’t talk, walk, or remember where they are.”
Offering an exclusive preview of some of his new routines, Keith tells us he will be stopping his heart live on stage, putting €10,000 of his own money up for grabs to an audience member, and indulging in some mind reading.
“In one routine I take a doctor or nurse from the audience, and I stop my heart on stage. I get them to do a five point pulse check - they check the pulse in my neck, wrist, heart, etc.”
In another routine, Keith takes four people from the audience, and puts €10,000 cash inside one of five envelopes. “If I’m left with the envelope no one gets it. I did lose one in the States though and lost $5,000,” he adds - so there is a real chance you could be a good deal richer after going to see Keith’s show!
“There is loads of new material, including direct mind reading. It is hugely audience interactive. I throw a frisbee to pick people out from the audience, and I can tell them the colour and brand of underwear they are wearing, or what they had for breakfast.
“At another point I get all the audience to close their eyes and simultaneously implant a thought in their minds, and at the end of the show I do a large scale prediction,” says Keith.
“There will be all sorts of crazy happenings and shenanigans.”
Keith currently divides his time between Ireland and Las Vegas, and has also spent a significant amount of time in Hollywood over the past few years. He can count Samuel L. Jackson, Justin Timberlake, Beyonce, Harrison Ford, Colin Farrell, the Osbournes, and Matthew Perry among his many celebrity fans. So is it all glitz and glamour for the Irish magician?
“It’s a bit surreal,” says Keith. “I practically lived in Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas for 10 weeks. It’s every magician’s dream to have a show in Vegas. A few celebrities have turned up to my shows such as Mel B, Paris Hilton, and Bette Midler.
But there’s no chance of getting any celebrity gossip out of him. “I avoid a lot of the lifestyle. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great fun, but I see it as work really,” he says.
Keith is set to return to Vegas in August for another run of shows, and plans to record a TV show for the Discovery Channel in May. And then there is the ‘triple X’ project.
“I am putting together a two hour hypnosis show entitled ‘Keith Barry Triple X - Leave the Kids at Home’,” says Keith. “There will be all sorts of debauchery happening on stage. People say that you can’t get people to do things they don’t want to do, but you can!”
It’s a long way from the 14-year-old who purchased a book entitled Magic for the Complete Klutz while on a school tour to Edinburgh.
“I have been aiming for this all my life, for as long as I can remember,” says Keith. “I have always dreamt big, and straight away I said I would get to Vegas. I have been at it since I was five or six, and at 14 I started to take it seriously when I got the book. My parents said magic was great as a hobby.”
The Keith Barry - Direct from Vegas show takes place this Friday and Saturday March 20 and 21 in the Dean Crowe Theatre, Athlone. For ticket information visit www.deancrowetheatre.com or call (090 ) 6492129.