A household name across the country, Keith Barry is the world’s leading TV mentalist, hypnotist and magician.
He’s headed to glór this Sunday where he will perform his latest show ‘Hypnomagick’, tickets to which can be won in our exclusive competition. Ahead of his visit to Ennis, Keith caught up with The Clare Herald to talk all things about the mind, magic, inspiration, success, failure, sceptics and more.
Interest in magic began for Keith at the age of five when he received a Paul Daniels magic set, at fifteen he got his hands on a hypnosis book and from then he started to blend the two together. During his college years, his girlfriend and now wife, Mairead Foley was studying psychology, it was here that the idea of mixing the study of behaviour and the mind into his work first dawned on him.
Advertised as his craziest and most hypnotic show to date, Keith gives us an insight into what people can expect at ‘Hynomagick’. “In the first half I implant thoughts into people’s minds I extract thoughts from their minds everything from getting to people to think of their free pass such as any celebrity that they would love to have a night of sexual liaisons with and I hack into their brains and tell them who that is in all kinds of crazy ways. I have perception tests involving the whole audience where I implant thoughts into their minds when they’re sitting in the comfort of their seat.
“In the second half of the show it gets really crazy from the hypnosis aspect and I’ve designed a really original hypnosis act where I transform people back to where they think they’re three years old and about to see their first magic show so I put on this magic show for the people on stage under hypnosis and they believe they’re only three years of age watching this magic show so I do the simplest of tricks like when people know how to break their finger in half by bending their thumb and when I do that they freak out, they gone bananas simply because they believe they’re three years of age watching this stuff.
“To keep it topical I create a UFC fight conference every night on stage so I make everybody believe that they’re UFC fighters, Conor McGregor and a Japanese martial artist called and they have a face-off on stage and at the end of the show culminates in me hypnotising the whole audience into seeing two people dissolve before their very eyes on stage”.
Typically the Waterford native would start putting ideas together one year before the opening date of a tour. Two months out from the beginning of a tour he finishes all writing material for the show and then attempts to perfect all the routines along with his crew and props in The K Club.
“This stuff can’t be properly rehearsed until you have a theatre full of people so really the first true dress rehearsal is the opening night and the opening night was up in The Blackbox in Galway and thankfully we opened to a standing ovation that night and we’ve had a standing ovation every single night since, it takes a massive amount of time when you’re coming up close to opening days we go into eighteen hours a day or even twenty hours a day sometimes just to get the show right, it’s over the course of the year but the couple of weeks in the run up to the show are the main few weeks were we tweak everything”.
Needless to say there is pressure on Barry when it comes to performing on stage. A huge deal of planning goes into the shows and there is a chance that various acts will not work as originally envisaged, Keith isn’t fazed by the possibility of mistakes on stage.
“Failure is part of what I do, sometimes you do fail sometimes people don’t go into hypnosis, sometimes when you’re hacking into people’s brain they just enter into the experience so you have to not be afraid of failure you have to embrace it and the more you fail the better you’ll get at this stuff. Especially in the earlier days I failed quite often now I still fail but not as often but these things are obviously massively complex to pull off but luckily over the years and the months of rehearsals for this particular show I’ve tweaked them enough that the majority of the time they work exactly the way I want them to”.
In order to stand out from the crowd, something which Keith has consistently managed to do, his ideas need to be unconventional and pulsating. His motivation for stunts comes from everywhere, everything and everyone.
“Inspiration comes from all kinds of different areas like I’m already looking at my next show, I was working on the movie franchise ‘Now You See Me’ with Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo and Morgan Freeman, I was the chief magic consultant on both movies and I had a conversation with Morgan Freeman when I was on number two and the opening routine in this year’s show was directly out of that conversation I had with Morgan Freeman and I explained that on the stage and then I obviously look into what’s topical at the moment, UFC is very topical and then I dream up that I would love to see on stage.
“I just came up with the concept that I’d love to hypnotise the whole audience seeing two people dematerialise before their eyes on stage, it doesn’t matter if you’re a sceptic, non believer it works for everybody every single night and it’s the craziest part of the show so I’m always looking for inspiration everywhere I go”.
When it comes to the ideal volunteers to join him on stage, people who want to be there are welcome while Keith is more than happy to give those who are slightly sceptical a taste of the action. “I don’t want people who are going to resist hypnosis because I can’t force anybody into hypnosis, other than that there’s nothing that I can’t handle on stage”.
He has a level of understanding for people that question the reality of what’s going on with his shows but the mentalist maintains that the only way for them to be converted is by going to one of his shows or even better by going on stage. “Because of TV work they’re wondering is that person an actor or a stooge even though in my own work I have never ever used an actor or stooge in all the TV work and all the live work that I’ve done”.
“With that being said the idea of hypnosis as real or not that argument is long gone it’s actually buried at this stage because we’re actually seeing that the medical practitioners are using hypnosis in some instances as the only anaesthetic for open heart surgery and just lately brain surgery and nothing else because people who are allergic to certain anaesthetics they use hypnosis for pain management. The argument is long gone so other than that the only other way to experience it is to come along and jump up on stage”.
Having come to glór every year since he started performing, Keith points to one moment as a special highlight from his time at the Ennis venue. “I do remember one particular instance when I was starting off probably fourteen or fifteen years ago where I was just starting the hypnosis act of what I do on stage and I hypnotised a guy and I had to catch him before his face hit the ground because he just collapsed completely and that was a real moment for me where I realised myself ‘wow this hypnosis stuff is real’, because if it wasn’t he would have put his hands out and protected himself but I caught him just before he smashed his face off the ground so that for me was a real moment and that happened in the glór theatre”.
While that may have been his highlight in Co Clare, reflecting on his career he says headlining at Las Vegas and appearing on shows such as The Ellen Show and The Jimmy Kimmel Show in America “are moments that I’ll cherish”.
Last October Keith turned forty, he’s not the type to sit down and relax, instead he’s got big plans on the agenda. “First and foremost I want to do some homegrown television of my own, I’ve done ‘You’re Back In The Room’ with ITV for the past couple of years and I’ve done an American spinout version of that called ‘Hypnotise Me’ that will go out on FOX later this year but I’d love to do more homegrown television so I’m working on that for the moment and trying to get that off the ground.
“Then on a personal level I want to learn how to become an expert, a master if you like skydiver I’ve never done it before but I need to do that in order to do one of the effects or stunts that I want to do where I get a regulation straight jacket strapped over me and a parachute getting pushed out of a plane and the whole idea is I got to get out of the straight jacket to get the parachute so that’s on the bucket list and other than that just keep doing what I’m doing and enjoy doing it”.
Tickets are available to buy for Sunday’s show at the glór box office or on their website. The Clare Herald is running a competition where you can win two tickets to the show, click here for more details.