Keith Barry tries to conjure up a sense of atmosphere

TV review: There’s one magic trick the Keith Barry Experience finds a challenge

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Keith Barry, king of clubs

 

The first mind-blowing, death-defying feat The Keith Barry Experience (RTÉ One, Wednesday, 9.35pm) must attempt is also its most challenging. In a cavernous studio, where lights whirl, a DJ spins tunes and an audience mill about in the background like survivors from Top Gear, Barry tries to conjure up a sense of atmosphere.

Roaming between neon lights (“BAR” screams one, above a drum kit, in a cunning act of misdirection) and a clatter of high fives (the audience may have found it nonetheless), Barry promises to bring “some Las Vegas magical madness into your living room”.

A veteran of Vegas, where magic and madness are in high supply, Barry must know how complicated an illusion that would be. But, sharp-suited, fast-talking and nimble-fingered, Barry has the nightlife persona to sell it. Behold, this king of clubs.

Still, it’s impossible to reinvent the magic show. You can retire the rabbit, re-cast the charming assistant (“Give it up for José, everyone!”), and rebrand a floorshow as an experience. But the tricks barely alter, variations on the stupefying flourish, “Is this your card?”, either conducted on impressive scale or perpetrated on famous faces. Barry does both.

Snooker ace Ken Doherty is dazzled, having winnowed 52 packs of cards down to one, when a rolling cue ball settles near a matching card to one preselected in the deck. Convoluted? That’s the point. The most satisfying part of Barry’s act settles near a matching card in the 21st Century: to feel overwhelmed by the illusion of choice, when our options are really much more limited.

“There has to be easier ways to make money,” quips Mrs Brown’s Boys star Danny O’Carroll, with no small amount of insight, when Barry encourages him to yank four of the five strings from his mouth, one of which is tied to a fishing hook ready to impale his lips. How that trick is done beats me, but how it is performed relies on Barry’s mock alarm and O’Carroll’s sincere concern.

That we see how musical guest Soulé is duped by a rope trick, but not how Barry correctly reads her mind, is a nice touch - an audience should never feel too superior to the volunteer. Yet few will find the occasion quite as momentous as Dancing with the Stars judge Julian Benson, “never more stressed in my life” to have one of his signature sequinned jackets pierced, but magically unharmed, by a knife, before deciding an ensuing stunt - the fishhook writ large with giant hammers and doors - “is the most difficult thing I’ve ever done in my life”.

Move over, Keith Barry. The Julian Benson Experience has all the magical madness you could ask for.

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