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Image / Living / Culture

Keith Barry’s new show is equal parts magic and madness


By Sarah Finnan
07th Nov 2021
Keith Barry’s new show is equal parts magic and madness

Busy promoting his upcoming live tour (which kicks off on New Year’s Day), Keith Barry is eager to get back to touring.

Interacting with people at his shows is where he does some of his best work, after all. There’s only so much of a rapport you can generate via a grainy laptop camera, and Zoom just doesn’t cut it when it comes to creating that electric atmosphere his performances have come to thrive off of. 

A mixture of fear and excitement, audience members rarely know what to expect at a Keith Barry show… but that’s part of the thrill. While some can’t wait to volunteer and get up on stage, others would rather be invisible observers. To the latter group, even the thought of being singled out is enough to make them break out in hives. Are audience nerves a help or a hindrance to Keith though? 

“Some of the audience are quite nervous, as they are scared of being hypnotised to do something foolish or are scared of me hacking their brain and revealing an embarrassing thought. I always get a mixture of sceptics, believers, non-believers, nervous people, confident people, etc. which all adds to the spontaneity of the show. If someone is too nervous to come on stage though I’ll always respect that and simply pick someone else.” Good to know for future reference, as I definitely count myself amongst the nervous nellies. 

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Already a well-established household name, there are very few that wouldn’t be familiar with Mr Barry’s line of work. But fame comes with a price and there are many preconceptions that follow him around as a result. “I think the major misconception is that I am hacking brains all day long, even when walking down the street or having a meal in a restaurant,” Keith tells me. “Whilst it’s true that no thought is really safe, I have the ability to turn my brain hacking skills on and off as required. So, everyone can relax,” he jokes. “I’m not hacking brains all of the time. It’s mainly just on stage or in the bank when trying to get a loan!” 

As for what initially drew him to mentalism? It’s an interest that started when he was just a boy but that really grew and developed during his college years. “My wife and I went to college together in NUI Galway [formerly University College Galway]. I was studying science at the time and she was studying psychology. I started reading her psychology books and learning about cognitive reframing, neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), and autogenics. That’s when I started to blend these techniques with my magic and delved deeper and deeper into the recesses of the human brain,” Keith admits. 

Soon to embark on his new Irish tour, it marks his first series of live performances since the world essentially shut down back in March 2020. Aptly called Reconnected, the theme of the show “came completely from the pandemic” according to Keith. “I always theme my shows quite heavily,” he says. “The last one was called Insanity and ended in the whole audience raving like complete lunatics! With this show, I thought it was important to recognise how separated we’ve all been for the past 2 years and it is time now to reconnect.  

“I found the initial lockdown the hardest,” he confesses. “It was so alien to me to not be touring, travelling, and performing. However, I pivoted online and began performing my virtual shows for large multinationals all over the world so that has kept me busy through the rest of the lockdowns we’ve had.” 

Confirming that he’s definitely excited to be able to meet people IRL again, he said that he “literally can’t wait to hit the road again”. “The tour starts on January 1st in the Glenroyal Hotel [in Maynooth] and hits almost every county in Ireland until mid-January.” 2022 will be a very busy year for him, in other words…  but as previously stated, he comes into his own on-stage. “It’s in my DNA to be on a stage,” he continues. “To be able to reconnect with people will be so much fun. The show is designed to reconnect people physically, spiritually, and intellectually and it’s definitely my most ambitious show to date.”

How so? Well, he’ll teach one half of the audience how to hack the other half’s brains “and literally crawl inside their minds”, for one. “Industrial-strength staple guns will be fired at my eyes, I will reconnect people with dead loved ones and a crossbow will fire arrows at 300 feet per second across the stage.” Standard stuff, really. 

Drawing inspiration from all kinds of different places, the upcoming shows were influenced by everything from movies to music and the art world. “Tony Sadar and Doc Shiels are great mentors of mine and inspire me daily with their wisdom (Tony is one of Ireland’s first-ever stage hypnotist’s and Doc is one of the world’s foremost surrealist artists).”  

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Brain Hacks: Everyday Mind Magic for Creating the Life You Want, Gill Books, €16.99

Now also a published author, his first book Brain Hacks debuted at number three in the paperback nonfiction category just last week. “A lot of people probably don’t know that aside from being an entertainer I’m also a performance/mind coach for a variety of athletes and businesspeople,” he notes – and rightly so as it’s something I’m surprised to learn about him too. “This has been a large part of my business for the past 15 years. I decided to distill down the techniques I use on my clients, and indeed myself, into an easy-to-read book where there is literally something for everyone. If you want to improve confidence, reduce anxiety and stress the book will be useful. 

“If you want to learn to look like a real-life brain hacker, the book is for you. I also share many creative visualisations in the book which are key to programming your mind to achieve the life you want.” What’s for you won’t pass you, but manifesting helps ensure it can find you that little bit more quickly. 

Tickets for Keith Barry’s upcoming Reconnected tour are available to buy via Ticketmaster now.