Over 200 million viewers tuned in to Britain’s Got Talent to witness the death-defying escapades of master magician and illusionist Darcy Oake. In our exclusive chat for the NMP Live Meets…series Darcy talks about what sets him apart from other magicians, his first paid booking, and why you need him at your next event! Watch the full interview or read the transcript below.
In conversation with Darcy Oake
When did you first become interested in magic?
The first magic I saw was actually an accident. It was my Dad just playing around with a deck of cards – he asked me to pick a card. I picked it, looked at it, put it back in the pack, he mixed them up, and then randomly he reached in and went ‘that was your card’, and it was, and he tortured me for weeks!
He wouldn’t tell me how he did it because it was an accident, complete fluke, 1 in 52 chance, and the fact that it actually worked out really sparked my interest in magic and I never stopped learning from there.
What was the first magic trick you performed?
The first proper magic trick I performed I didn’t even do it correctly! I didn’t even know how it worked; I just made up my own trick. It was these 2 little handkerchiefs that you put in the bag and then I would pull them out and they were tied together, it was so good. I close my show now with it…no, no, haha.
What did Simon Cowell see in you that was different from other magicians?
Well, I think it goes back to the on-going problem with magic as a whole. It is perceived as lame and cheesy in a sense because it attracts a certain type of person I guess.
The people that you see within the magic community aren’t necessarily the people that you’re like ‘oh, I want to hang out with that guy’, you’re almost like ‘urgh, get that guy away from me’, right? So I think it was just a matter of being normal, and just coming across as a normal person that’s not this weird, cheesy magician – just a normal guy that can do extraordinary things I guess.
I feel what really connected with Simon and the audience, in general, was the way it was presented and the fact that it’s a normal guy doing some pretty cool things. It’s not over the top, it’s not schlocky and it’s not cheesy, right?
How did it feel to reach the finals of Britain’s Got Talent?
Yeah, it was amazing, getting through to the finals was incredible. It was one of those things, coming to the UK to do the show I was like ‘well, you know, I’m Canadian. I doubt if that’s going to connect the way that it did’. I had no idea it was going to go down that way, and then when it did it was super exciting. But, yeah it was life-changing, absolutely.
Can you remember your first paid booking?
My first paid booking was for $20, which is like £10, in a McDonalds that wasn’t even closed to the public. So, there are people coming in and out of McDonald's and there’s me in the corner trying to do this 12-year-old kid’s birthday party. It was the most horrendous thing ever. I still look back on it and think, oh, that was bad!
What was your first booking with NMP Live?
My first job for NMP Live was in Las Vegas for Cisco and it was 5000 people at Mandalay Bay. It was cool. It was one of those things where they had a specific request, which was to incorporate their message into the show.
They also wanted the CEO to come out with a big bang so we made him appear right at the top of the show, which was cool. It was nice too because he was a middle-aged guy, no magic experience, as with 99% of the population. I think we had about an hour with him and we trained him how to do this appearance. So I came out, opened the show and then he appeared right away and did his keynote speech.
That show, in particular, we came back – we broke it up into chunks so it was the beginning, middle and end of the conference, so it kept a nice flow to it. We incorporated their message and we also made the CEO appear, which was a nice start to the conference.
What’s the most extravagant event you’ve performed at?
Usually, the most extravagant events are the smallest ones too. It’s the oil guy, or whoever, who wants to throw this party for 50/60 people, but they go full-on. So those ones are usually overwhelming because there’s so much involved in it, but just for a small amount of people, which is a lot of fun.
Then there’s also the ones where there is an enormous amount of people, but I would say the most extravagant might have been this thing we did in Montenegro for 60 people.
Have you always performed with doves?
The dove act became my signature bit since Britain’s Got Talent, and that was actually the very first act I started working on over a long period of time. It was a never-ending process that strived for perfection.
It started off with one dove, and then I added a second one, and then 3, 4, and then the little parakeets. It just became this thing that over time grew and it was funny because at a certain point I had sort of considered not doing it anymore, just because I was like ‘it’s live animals, people love live animals, it’s not necessarily a representation of my skill as a magician’, but you get so close to your material, you forget how it’s perceived.
Then I went and did Britain’s Got Talent and it became “the act”, so it’s not going anywhere.
Where do you look for inspiration?
Creating a new bit can stem from anywhere. Sometimes a piece of music will come on the radio and I think ‘this will be cool’ and I’ll save it, or sometimes a piece of music comes on and you just come up with something cool. Sometimes you get an idea and you write it down and then you come back to it later.
You can’t really force creativity, which can be the tricky part in this business. Say you have a show in three months from now coming up and they want a particular illusion where you have to do this, at a certain point you do have to force that if it’s not coming to you.
The best ideas stem from just random thoughts that happen, and it becomes an organic growth or you sort of nurture that idea. It’s not really something you want to force, but I mean sometimes you have to, especially when you are working lots and you have to come up with effects and ideas and specific things.
Inspiration can come from anywhere basically, whether it’s pop culture, TV or radio or a piece of music or an idea somebody said. It’s a number of things, but any time it comes it’s a good thing, right!
Why should a client book an illusionist for their event?
I feel personally, I don’t know, maybe I am biased, but any sort of entertainment…you love to watch dance because there is a magic quality to it, right? It looks cool and you watch it like ‘I can’t do that, these people train their whole lives to do that, this is amazing’. There’s a magical type quality to it, which I love, it’s fantastic and that’s part of the reason why I love to watch magic and illusions because you don’t see that every day, there’s no explaining it.
So when you're at an event, and let's face it some of these people have been to about 10 of them this year, and you have got a comedian, and a singer, that’s great. But to do something different I feel is to do something people have never seen before, and most people haven’t necessarily seen good quality magic and illusions presented in a way that’s really fun and entertaining, and that connects with the crowd and gets them into it.
So, I think there’s something really special about seeing the impossible and seeing something you can’t explain in a venue that all these people are used to. It creates an overall experience, which is really special, that maybe other art forms can’t necessarily do in this type of environment.
A lot of these corporate shows are hotel ballrooms, banquet rooms, so to come into that environment and show these people something that literally defies any sort of explanation is a powerful thing.
If you're interested in booking Darcy Oake, you can enquire online, email us or pick up the phone and speak to one of our friendly booking agents. For further information about Darcy, private performance details, testimonials and video clips, view his profile.