Seeing is not believing: Keith Barry’s Insanity Tour
by Pat Levy
I am a sceptic. I’d go so far as to say my adult life has been built on a rejection of all things that go bump in the night including silly (IMHO) concepts like clairvoyance and life after death. I’d never heard of Keith Barry but I wanted to see the historic Everyman Theatre in Cork, a place of entertainment that first opened its doors at the end of the nineteenth century and which welcomed Laurel & Hardy and Charlie Chaplin in the early decades of the following one.
So I stepped into the foyer with not so much an open mind as a disinterested one. I was very wet, courtesy of Storm Dennis, and could only find comfort by remembering W. C. Fields’ antipathy to water. Above the hubbub of the crowd, a demented sounding man was ripping off oversized sheets of tinfoil and handing them out to whoever didn’t want to be a participant in the show. If you weren’t wearing a hat fashioned out of tin foil, it seemed you might be dragged up onto the stage.
Casting scepticism aside – and in fear of being hypnotised into revealing dark secrets – I fashioned a fetching headpiece and feeling pretty stupid took my seat.
What happened in the gobsmacking couple of hours that followed? Sleight of hand; magic; telepathy; extrasensory perception? I have no idea how Barry seemingly planted thoughts into his volunteers’ heads, read their minds, made them stronger than seemed humanly possible, exploded light bulbs, exhibited telekinesis, risked impaling himself in the eye with a metal spike, stopped his heartbeat, was electrocuted in order to increase his mind-reading abilities. In retrospect, I’d like to think that I and everyone else in the audience were distracted by the occasional bursts of loud music, flashing video images and strobe lights – were these crucial moments that allowed chicanery to pass by unnoticed? This was not a comforting thought, predicated as it was on all of being ejits.
Be assured, you will be entertained and beguiled beyond reckoning. As Keith Barry cracks cheesy jokes and dances around the stage, taking you on a wild goose chase, the lark reminded me a little of Tom Cruise in Magnolia but without that character’s bile. Barry must burn up thousands of calories on each show. He rarely stops moving or – tellingly perhaps – gives the audience a chance to reflect on what they are seeing. The performance ended with a baffling mind-reading set involving sealed boxes, too many members of the audience for them to be planted assistants, and a one-minute rave!
Back in front of my laptop, I looked up the YouTube videos. Equally baffling and entertaining performances – except one where Barry apparently contacted the deceased relatives of a couple of women. Not so entertaining.
The Insanity Tour is at the Olympia from 5-7 March, back at the Everyman on the 13th March and, the following evening, at the Woodlands Hotel, Waterford.