As a teen, I would seek out Keith Barry clips. He had a show in America, and every clip I could find would blow my mind. All of his magic stands the test of time. It’s consistently strong and worked-in magic and mentalism. Barry respects the audience, keeps things simple and focuses on human connection.
He was the first performer I saw doing a blindfold drive, and PK touches, smash and stab and even the matching Rubik’s cube effect back in the early 2000s.
I worked with Keith several years back when we were both consulting on a project for a day. He was terrific — passionate, knowledgable, free of performer’s ego (rare for performers who consult), with a strict understanding that the show is more than the sum of its tricks.
I also remember the production company PA, who happened to be Irish, was starstruck. When she found out he was coming in, she reacted like we told her Brad Pitt was en route. To be fair, he is fit.
Born in Waterford, Ireland, Keith discovered magic at age five via a Paul Daniel's magic set. Any introduction to magic stories like this fascinates me. Many would later get into magic after seeing Blaine, Brown, or Dynamo. I wonder who is the gateway for new magicians now… is it Dan Rhodes?
In 2004, Barry starred in his own MTV television special entitled Brainwashed. It was clips of these shows that I would hunt down and devour online as a teen. He was the first magician I ever saw perform almost exclusively for celebrities — something that felt at home on MTV with shows like Punk’d and Cribs.
Barry was the first person I saw perform many classics of magic. His performances of these core magic routines always stand out in my mind. I think it’s because Barry’s mentalism is essentialist, focusing on what makes mentalism brilliant and doubling down on it from start to finish.
I watched Barry’s smash and stab routine repeatedly with my Dad. Where most mentalists would stress the danger, perhaps show clips of the illusion going wrong or create a dark, intense atmosphere, Barry did the opposite.
Performing the illusion in a white room gave everything more intrigue; it focuses our attention and makes the idea of potential methods more impossible. Barry respects us as an audience to understand the clear danger, and he relies on celebrity reactions to make the fear more engaging and relatable.
Barry’s blindfold drive is brilliant. Over the last ten years, I have worked in many writers’ rooms that have discussed blindfold drives. There’s a tendency to overcomplicate blindfold drives. “Let’s drive backwards, around a racetrack, through busy roads, and let’s add a kicker at the end.”
The simple truth is that driving on any road at speed blindfolded should be scary enough. Once again, Barry respects the audience enough to understand the danger themselves. He keeps things simple and performs at speed in the hills for a great backdrop and unsaid risk of falling off the cliffs. I’d never seen someone utilise celeb reactions quite like this.