Irish mentalist Keith Barry brings his live show 8 Deadly Sins to Britain this month. The Co. Waterford magician, who now lives in Dublin, has been in the entertainment business for 17 years and is certainly leaving his mark. Keith, 35, is a TV regular having appeared on the Ellen Degeneres Show four times and even hosted the Irish version of Deal or No Deal. His most recent is a cameo role will be in the 2013 blockbuster Next You See Me alongside Morgan Freeman. He chats to Charlotte Bones about life in the fast lane.
Define what you do in your own words?
When it comes to the live shows, which I am bringing to London for the first time this month, it’s difficult to really define what it is I do. But I could describe it in six or seven words as a mixture of mind-reading, hypnosis, comedy, escapology, nudity and magic. I suppose I would describe myself as a student of human behaviour. I study human patterns and from that predict future patterns.
How did you know you had a talent for this industry?
I started out as a magician. I was aged six or seven when I got my first magic book. But it was college that it really started. I was studying chemistry at the time and my then girlfriend Mairéad, who is now my wife, was studying psychology. I started reading her books and was really interested in what they said. It was then that I started to mix psychology with magic and that’s when I changed from a magician into a mentalist.
Whose work do you admire most?
The people that inspire me most probably aren’t that well known to the general public, although one for an older generation is David Berglas, who had his own TV show and wrote many books on magic. Another would be Billy McComb from Belfast who immigrated to the states in the 20s. He was the pinnacle of magic in the US in the 70s. Doc Shiels was also someone who was very responsible for the way magic went in the 70s and 80s in dark magic and wrote lots of books.
You’re fiercely popular in the US and you’ve tricked some high profile stars. Do you ever get starstruck?
I never really get start struck and I think the reason for that is because I have been around well-known people now for quite a long time now. Before television I was performing every Friday at the Kitchen Nightclub in Dublin, which was owned by U2. Bono and the lads would be in there and bringing people in from all over the world like Naomi Campbell and musicians like Bryan Adams. I very quickly knew not to get star struck. It’s great to perform to A–list stars. I love my job.
Do you ever worry a trick will go wrong? And if it did, what would you do?
Luckily nothing has ever gone dramatically wrong. We have a few close calls, the most recent being one that was on the Discovery Channel. I was doing my blind-folded trick and drive. As I have done it so many times I didn’t want to do it again unless I could put a spin on it. So I asked my passenger to put some cones on the road randomly and unbeknown to him I got people to stand where the cones were. I put the blind fold on, started to drive and they were my obstacles. People were told to stay in one spot. Unfortunately on the day a woman dived out of the way. In rehearsal I kept going to my left and she dived to the left. Fortunately on the day I went to the right. I’ve also broken my fingers and about four months ago dislocated my shoulder on stage. But the worst thing that has gone wrong, besides tricks, has been when I got food poisoning before I went on stage in front of 1,000 people in Dublin. A couple of times throughout the show I had to go to the side to do what I had to do and go straight back on. We called a doctor straight afterwards as I collapsed in the dressing room and had to have a few jabs.
How does it feel to have set the record as the most successful solo act ever to play The Olympia Theatre in Dublin?
I didn’t realise at the time. It was last year that I was given an award for the most sell out nights in the Olympia. Big stars have played there from the US, Britain and Ireland so for me to get the award was incredible.
How does your entertaining compare to acting in CSI Miami? Keith had a cameo role in the US series’ Open Water episode in 2007.
I’m a great fan of the show. At the time I was just casually performing when a group came over to me and said ‘we’d like to write you into a scene’. I said a scene in what and they said CSI Miami. They were the writers for the show. You have to understand I have become fairly hardened to people promising you the moon and stars and it never happening. I just said yeah cool and forgot about it. Then the next week my manager got a call and it all happened. But I didn’t manage to get to fly to Miami and what most people don’t know is that it is actually filmed in Manhattan Beach in LA. My scene was with Emily Procter who plays Calleigh Duquesne who was just great. She brought me into her trailer where she was learning her lines and taught me how to act. In my head I thought we would flirty but she soon grounded me. She said ‘you gotta act this’, ‘you got act like that’.
If you weren’t an entertainer, what would you do?
I am looking at acting at the moment but I know it’s hard work. I have done a cameo role recently in a blockbuster film, Now You See Me which stars Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Isla Fisher. I worked on that movie behind the scenes a lot and got to know what the movie world is all about. Otherwise I would have been a vet because I’ve had around me all my life.
What would you do if you had only one day to live?
I’do a show in the morning as many people, spend time with my wife Mairéad and then party with friends and family with plenty drink and music.
What’s the plan when the tour is over?
When the tour is over the plan is more shows. I toured in January and February in Ireland doing 26 shows and am now coming to Leicester Square, which is cool. There will be 400 people there so that will be intimate and fun. I’m then off to Australia later in the year.
What does your wife Mairéad think about your job?
Mairéad studied psychology and now knows how to hypnotise people herself which is funny. My wife has been around me so long, 18 years, that she can now read people’s minds and hypnotise them. It’s quite funny. We often sit down with a glass of wine and laugh about it.
What is your motto for life?
I don’t have a motto, but I go by the saying ‘live every day as it’s your last’. In 2007 I was in a car crash and my knee down my left leg was completely demolished. People often don’t do the physiotherapy as it hurts too much, and they end up limping. But I didn’t want a limp, so you’ve got to make the best of things and go for it. I was determined to recover fully. Something else I would say is to always follow your dreams and never listen to negativity. I never listened to the 99 per cent of people who said I couldn’t make a life out of magic. But I did.
Keith Barry’s 8 Deadly Sins runs at London’s Leicester Square Theatre on June 8-9 from from 7.30pm. See www.leicestersquaretheatre.com or 08448 733433 for tickets.