Monday 18 December 2017

Keith Barry's best trick is not worrying his wife

The magician keeps some stunts to himself.

Keith Barry
Keith Barry
Keith and his wife Mairead are parents to two children.

Graham Clifford

After two decades together, Keith and Mairead Barry can tell each other anything -- well, almost anything.

But for the sake of a quiet life, he often "forgets" to mention the more dangerous elements of his shows to his other half.

"There's a very serious element of risk, a lot of mentalists have been killed over the years, but I rely on my team to tell me when to pull back," he says.

"I don't tell Mairead about a lot of the stunts until they're done and everything works out fine. There's no point. If I told her I was intending to do some of the more dangerous ones she'd say I shouldn't."

Which means he probably didn't tell Mairead too much about the filming of his new series. On Sunday, Brain Hacker begins on TV3 and the Waterford magician will play Russian Roulette with revolvers and even jump near spikes laced with the venom of deadly vipers.

Mairead will probably be watching through her hands. And she's not the only one occasionally alarmed by her husband's magic antics.

"One night in LA, I was out with my promoter and he said he'd like me to meet a friend of his so he brings me to a restaurant where Keanu Reeves is dining," Keith recalls.

"I thought it'd be a good idea to pick up a spoon and make it droop over like the scene from The Matrix; so that's what I did. Keanu Reeves totally freaked out, threw a $100 bill on the table and ran out the door."

Barry performed at Keanu's house party days later (though the actor said if Keith did any tricks or illusions on the host, he'd 'punch him in the face').

At least Barry's sure of a more receptive audience at home, where his shows are usually sell-outs. In April he'll hit the road again, taking the Brain Hacker tour nationwide with 14 shows.

"It was hard going putting the series together but I thrive on hard work. My work ethic is all that I need to give it everything so when I'm working its 18-hour days writing, re-writing, filming, researching and experimenting."

The hard-working magician did manage to put his feet up for a few days over the festive period. For the first time in seven years Keith and Mairead enjoyed a traditional Christmas at home.

"It was so fantastic to be at home with Mairead and the kids. I was able to go for a pint and let loose a bit at the dinner table," he laughs.

Hard work has always been Barry's mantra. He even admits to having swotted up in order to win Mairead's heart. Having met as teens in Waterford, Keith pored over psychology student Mairead's text books to see if his interest in magic was compatible with hers in science.

"I'd stay up late into the night reading her books, trying to figure out how psychology and magic would work together."

And the hard work didn't end there. When he found out he was to take his top off in his new show, he immediately hit the gym.

"There was no way I was leaving the side down. I worked hard in the gym to make sure I looked the part," he says.

Keith's hacking skills are put to the test in the series and after interviewing the head of an Irish online security firm he casually tells her that during their conversation he's worked out what her personal online password is -- not surprisingly he is correct.

Also he cracks the safe at Paul Sheeran Jeweller's on Dublin's Grafton Street.

While the 37-year-old has frequently used celebrities in his shows, for this series he has recruited his peers -- namely Uri Geller, Max Maven and, the godfather of them all, Dr David Berglas.

" I wanted to try something a bit different. Dr Berglas hadn't performed for 20 years but he was at his best on Brain Hacker and for me that was a huge buzz."

Barry has even passed on some of his magic to his five-year-old daughter Breanna.

"If we get someone to line up a dozen objects and then to focus on one in their mind she can tell them which one it is. She gets it (the magic) and is really keen to learn."

In 2009, Keith's grandfather Paddy passed away just days after being attacked by intruders in his Waterford home but to date no one has been charged in connection with the break-in. The tragedy hit the performer hard, and changed his perception of Waterford.

"Unfortunately it's become a rough town. I love it with a passion but that's the reality," he says.

With huge anticipation for his new series and tour, Barry is looking forward to his Irish shows.

"When you're as passionate about what you do as I am then all the risks, all the hard work and the long hours are worth it just to see the shock in the faces of those in the audience."

Brain Hacker begins on Sunday on TV3 at 9 pm


Irish Independent

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