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Mind games

Living

Ger Flanagan catches up with Keith Barry ahead of his Castlebar show – the first date in his new nationwide tour

HACKING into peoples’ brains for your day job has to be mentally fatiguing, and for world-renowned mentalist and magician Keith Barry, there’s no better way of switching off than a spot of fishing on the River Moy.
Despite the Waterford native’s incredible talent for delving deep into the thoughts of his volunteers, performing daring escapes and conjuring up spell-binding magic, he doesn’t claim to have any superpowers or superior mental fortitude.
Although he does admit to using his ‘tools’ on himself from time to time.
“I have the full ability to be able to switch on to do what I do and then switch off,” the 42 year old told The Mayo News last week. “So I like to go fishing, and I spend a lot of my time fishing for salmon on the River Moy. I’m not all into hacking brains and that, although all the other fisherman want me to do is hypnotise the fish out of the river!
“We all have our bad days and good days, even me. But I think I have the tools to deal with stressful situations perhaps better than most.
“I was in a massive car accident about 12 years ago and I had to use self-hypnosis to allow them [doctors] to put my foot back into the socket after my tibia and fibia was smashed. I also used hypnosis on my wife for the birth of our second child.
“So I use these tools all the time. I’m certainly not bulletproof and I don’t pretend to have superpowers. I get stressed just as much as anyone else, but I don’t let it get on top of me.”

Crazy concoctions
Barry is currently busy prepping for his new nationwide live show called Deception, which is kicking off in the TF Royal Theatre, Castlebar on Friday, December 28.
The idea of the show stems from the ‘different areas of deception that exists in the world’, such as conspiracy theories and cults. Among such inspirations is the Jonestown Massacre in 1978, when Jim Jones convinced more than 900 of his followers to poison themselves with a concoction of Kool Aid and cyanide. From that, Barry performs a Russian Roulette on stage involving a beaker of water, a beaker of hydrochloric acid and a member of the audience.
One of Barry’s goals is make people laugh using his dark arts. “I’ll also interact with the audience while they’re seated in the comfort of their seats and I hack into their brains and do weird things while they’re sitting down,” he said. “The whole show culminates in this weird and bizarre ending that I could never have dreamed about.
“There’s lots of topical stuff, and although it’s an entertainment show, the demonstrations are designed to be funny; we expect you to laugh your faces off when you come, and don’t worry, no one is forced to participate!”

Freaking out Freeman
AFTER over 20 years in the industry, Barry has come across and worked his magic on some of the most famous people in the world. His most memorable experience was with Oscar-winning actor Morgan Freeman.
“He challenged me to hack into his brain, and I did,” he recalled. “I told him about a childhood friend of his, called Boo Boo that he hadn’t thought about in about 50 years.
“He started freaking out – shouting at me! That was a very memorable moment and a very nervous moment too, because at the end of the day, it’s Morgan Freeman, and you don’t meet him every day.”
There’s still one man that eludes Barry, however – someone he’d really like to hack.
“I’d like to have a good go of f****** Donald Trump,” he stated. “I’d like to hypnotise Trump and see what’s going on inside his noggin.
“But to hypnotise someone they need three things: imagination, intelligence and willingness, and I’m not even sure if he has one of those, never mind all three.”
Last year Barry also worked closely with Munster and Irish ruby star Keith Earls, who recovered from a major dip in form to win the 2018 Munster Player of the Year and the 2018 Players’ Player of the Year award.
When asked, it turns out he’s even open to lending his talents to help the Mayo footballers. “If a team member has a physical attribute to become a champion, then absolutely, psychological techniques and hypnotherapy techniques can help,” he mused. “Visualisation techniques can make the difference in winning and losing … you only have to look at Keith Earls to see the evidence of that.
“Ultimately he had a couple of bad seasons and I just helped him re-programme what was going on subconsciously to achieve the task at hand, and he ended up winning Player of the Year.
“So yeah, there could definitely be a documentary in the Mayo footballers – Mayo and the Magician. Tell them to give me a call.”

Meet and greet
A much-loved part of live shows for Barry is getting to mingle among the locals when the curtains come down. His meet and greets are free of charge, and they often spill into the early hours of the morning. And the TF happens to be one of his favoured venues.  
“I think I was the first there last year after it reopened, and we had a great show,” he recalled. “We went out for a couple of drinks with the locals after the show and ended up doing loads of close-up magic into the wee hours of the morning.
“I always do a meet and greet after because I’m very thankful for the audience. It quite annoys me when I hear of other artists charging for the meet and greet.”
He also takes great pleasure in proving the cynics wrong. Putting his money where his mouth is, Barry is also giving away €10,000 … all you have to do is deceive the man himself on stage by getting him to believe something that’s untrue.
“I also love the sceptics,” he reveals, “because they’re easier to fool than the open-minded. I know how they all think. I always invite sceptics up on stage to challenge me.”
“At the end of the day, I’m not pretending to be anything other than a magician, mentalist and hypnotist. My job is to entertain, so if a sceptic wants to come along and figure something out, power to them.
“Nine times out of ten I end up winning them over, and for the most part they have a good time, which is what it’s all about.”