Darcy Oake: The RD Interview
Canadian illusionist Darcy Oake talks suspending disbelief, working with birds and protecting the tricks of the magician’s trade.
Photo: Night Shop Media
You’ve had an eventful few years. You were a contestant on Britain’s Got Talent and you launched your career overseas with a TV special and tour in the United Kingdom. How did you realize magic was your calling?
Back when I was seven or eight, growing up in Winnipeg, my dad [famed Manitoba sportscaster Scott Oake] showed me a trick where he picked a card I’d chosen out of a deck. I was flabbergasted. For weeks he wouldn’t tell me how he’d done it, but I finally wore him down: it was an accident, a one-in-52 chance. So a fluke got me hooked on magic.
You were competing in international magic competitions by the age of 16. What was it like to grow up in that world?
I used to go to monthly meet-ups as a teen during the early 2000s. You’re probably hoping I’ll say we gathered in, like, some dark old church. But no, we met in a community-centre room to mingle and talk shop. Older magic guys would lend me VHS tapes to learn from. Mentorship has been important to me since then. When I see someone trying to learn, I go out of my way to help.
What about your peers? Did you ever get flak for being “that magic kid”?
I went through a phase in junior high and high school when I didn’t want to tell anyone I was trying to be a magician because I knew people would think I was a weirdo. But even then I believed it had the power to be really, really cool.
The stereotypical magician can be pretty cheesy.
I’ve never understood magicians who go up there in top hats and tailcoats and sequined jackets. Like, it’s 2015. Nobody dresses like that.
One of your most famous tricks involves doves. What are the hazards of working with birds? Poop? Feathers?
That’s only the start of it! One time I had a dove fly into the audience, land in a lady’s lap, lay an egg and then fly back to the stage. And I was like, Oookay. I couldn’t do that on purpose if I wanted to.
Is it difficult to keep trade secrets from your nearest and dearest?
A lot of the time it’s hard because I find the way a trick works just as cool as the actual result. It’s unfortunate I can’t tell anybody about the process. But that’s the price you pay. A magician never reveals his secrets.
Why is magic so compelling even after we supposedly become old enough to know better?
The answer is in the question. We think we know how everything works, and if we don’t know, Google will tell us. But magic, when done correctly, allows you to connect with a person and show them something impossible they can’t explain. It’s a powerful thing.
Some of your stunts seem incredibly dangerous, like hanging upside down inside a bear trap. What’s it like to put yourself in peril?
It’s a funny mind space. Part of me is like, “This is stupid. I don’t know why I’m doing it.” Another part is like, “This is going to be fantastic if it works.” And a third part is like, “If this goes horribly wrong, at least I’ll go out like a legend.”
Darcy Oake is currently on tour. Click here for dates!