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SHORT-CHANGED BY GIMMICKRY

Keith Barry: The Asylum, Olympia Theatre > Chris Wasser

Standing on the Olympia stage, the sweat slowly making its way down my back, I begin to panic. What the hell has this guy done to me? Is this for real, or has my brain simply decided to go along with it? I'm not sure. Either way, I can't separate my hands.

Having shown the bleach-haired mentalist before me I am susceptible to his hypnotic skills, I'm seated next to 19 other candidates, each about to enter a deep and seemingly unbreakable sleep. What happens next? Having been convinced the temperature has dropped below freezing, myself and a random male stranger try to warm each other up. Damn you, Keith Barry.

This isn't just a show based on the amusing actions of those willing to take part in the 33-year-old hypnotist's mind tricks. Indeed, The Asylum is a game of two entirely different halves.

First, we have the intelligent yet slightly comical Barry -- whose knowledge, expertise and showmanship, create an hour's worth of thought-provoking entertainment. It's all about engaging with his audience (without making fools of them). Everybody's favourite Irish mind-bender is at his best when reading our thoughts, playing with numbers and freaking the bejaysus out of us. However, despite finding out first-hand what it's like on the receiving end, I have to admit the second half is a bit of a let-down.

As a superb magician and mentalist, Barry is at the top of his game. But when he becomes a warped puppeteer whose greatest trick is making people believe they're smoking cannabis and engaging in sexual acts with chairs, the nerves begin to grate.

It's a bit too gimmicky, and you feel like the search for the next laugh ultimately blocks the opportunity to really mess with our heads. Maybe one day he'll reassess the art of hypnosis to create a more intriguing result. Until then, he looks perfectly happy convincing female participants they've just had their greatest orgasm ever.


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