TV mentalist Keith Barry brings new show Deception to Derry and Belfast

It's a confusing world out there but ahead of his new Deception show opening in Northern Ireland, Keith Barry, leading mentalist and brain hacker, tells Gail Bell he has all the answers – before anyone even poses the questions...

Mentalist and brain hacker, Keith Barry
Gail Bell

HE REALLY does know what you're thinking and will give you the answer to your question before you have spoken it aloud, but anyone heading to 'mind magician' Keith Barry's Northern Ireland gigs this month may have the last laugh yet.

As part of his new 'Deception' show – billed as the "biggest and most spectacular production ever" – the Dublin-based entertainer promises that any member of the audience who can turn the tables and successfully pull the wool over his own eyes, will leave the show €10,000 richer.

"It's a challenge I've thrown down to each audience in this new tour," Barry says. "Anyone who can come up to the stage and lie to me, who can truly deceive me, will walk away with €10,000 in cash.

"No-one has managed it yet, but we're only six shows in... and, over the course of 30 shows, I'm guessing one night I might lose the money – I'm not infallible, after all."

It will be Barry's first time in Belfast and the leading TV hypnotist, mentalist and brain hacker supremo, who has travelled the world and delved deep into the brains of celebrities including Woody Harrelson, Bono, Nicole Scherzinger and Morgan Freeman, is excited by the idea of seeing what people in the north are made of.

"I never force anyone to come up on stage – they're all volunteers," he assures me. "But the reaction, even from the sceptics in the audience, has been phenomenal.

"I actually love the idea that sceptics think they have a closed mind and that their brain is unaccessible, but, unlike with hypnosis, where you do have to have people who are susceptible, that's not the case here. People don't know how I'm doing what I'm doing and I don't use any hypnosis in the current show. Everyone is an open book."

The exact modus operandi will never be revealed, of course, but Barry, who decided on his career after he was presented with a Paul Daniels magic set at the age of five, dips into a "whole host of methods". These comprise neuro-lingusitic programming, magic, trickery and various mentalist techniques, the combined result invariably leaving his audiences amazed, dazed and confused – but always, always entertained.

Studying neuro-linguistic programming has taught the Waterford-born brain hacker how to "extract and implant thoughts" and, when mixed with psychology, hypnotism and magic, he says it goes into "this area called mentalism – which is mostly what I do".

It's a kind of magic – a "magic of the mind" and no-one is safe – including himself.

"A few years ago I was on stage performing one of my biggest escape acts and it went horribly wrong," the entertainer recalls. "I ended up passed out – unconscious on the stage in front of 1,200 people. I had challenged two audience members to come up and tie me up in 100ft of rope and they also got to wrap my head with a roll of cling film so I couldn't see nor breathe.

"But, on this particular night, it turned out one of the guys was a sailor and he tied me up in these weird, sailing knots. Ultimately, I inhaled a lot of cling film and just passed out. There was no come-back from that and it was the end of the show."

More recently, in a theatre in Kilkenny, a volunteer was so discombobulated at the baffling mind wizardry that he upped and fled the theatre.

"A guy wanted me to tell him where his razor was – that was the question in his mind," Barry explains. "So, I hacked into his brain, figured out that was the question and then told him his razor was underneath his pillow. He freaked out and ran out of the theatre.

"Another time, the surprise was on me when I ended up Beyonce-dancing around a local garda which was hilarious. You never really know who's going to be on stage with you and what's going to happen..."

Intent on keeping it topical, as well as real, Barry decided to focus on deception as the main theme for this new tour, largely due to society's "obsession with self-deception" and the habit of "airbrushing out the truth" in social media posts and photographs.

"I examined the world we're living in now and realised we're in a more deceptive world than ever, with the biggest form of deception out there being self-deception," the mentalist concludes resignedly.

"We are all too easily deceived now and everyone believes all these Instagram and Facebook posts when the majority of them are absolute nonsense. People are filtering their posts and airbrushing their lives; it's a complete altered reality. You do have to laugh at it."

:: Deception is on at the Millennium Forum, Derry, on January 19, and at Belfast's Waterfront Hall on January 25.

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