By Kyle Poluyko

Bringing his Edge of Reality tour to the Community Auditorium Friday, November 20, Darcy Oake’s captivating illusion show began with a sombre and sobering prologue. As the house lights dimmed, a heartfelt tribute to Nick Alexander was projected before the audience. Alexander, a well-known UK merchandise manager for many touring acts, tragically was a victim of the terror attacks at the Bataclan Concert Hall in Paris the week prior and had served on Oake’s recent UK tour. It was an important and necessary reminder that tragedies occurring oceans away can touch us all, and the heartfelt applause from the Thunder Bay crowd honoured Alexander in a true moment of community.

What may be the true magic of Darcy Oake is the lack of pretension in his feats of illusion. Some artists in Oake’s field present themselves with a façade, as a character so demanding to be taken seriously that they risk mockery. Oake — handsome, charming, and endearing in his occasional self-deprecation — acknowledges and incorporates the intelligence of his audience. As he himself stated, one either comes to the fold as a skeptic or as a believer and he has respect for both. Inquisitiveness and questioning are important, yet so is belief. For some, seeing is believing and that belief may open them up to greater experiences beyond an evening of entertainment. That was the simple message at the root of Oake’s show as he astounded the crowd, played “tricks” on a few audience participants, and demonstrated a true passion for what he shares.

A magician never gives away his secrets and Oake held true to that tradition. What he did, however, was to inform the audience of how he would attempt to achieve his dazzling results, and dazzle he did. In one display of his mystifying talents, the immediacy and diction with which randomly chosen participants replied to a simple question — “What was the name of the street you grew up on?” — enabled Oake to correctly reveal another distantly related fact about each. His accuracy was stunning. Another six participants each offered to Oake on his request a number between 1 and 50. With those numbers catalogued on a whiteboard on stage, another participant opened Oake’s wallet to reveal to the astonished audience a pre-purchased Lotto 6-49 ticket with the same numbers.

Oake shared in some playful trickery with the crowd as well, again demonstrating respect for his audience be they skeptics or believers. With a lovely participant on stage he unraveled feet of toilet paper from her hands, crumpled each up and asked her to guess in which hand he held the paper wads. Oake’s speedy slight of hand prevented her from noticing that he cast several to an assistant out of her field of view. Oake brought the audience in on the illusion but, for that lovely participant, gave her no cause to disbelieve his skill.

In a truly and literally breathtaking finale, Oake asked the audience to hold its breath with him as his hands were shackled, his head was submerged in a locked glass box filled with gallons of water while suspended shirtless and barefoot above the stage. Spotlights cast a glassy, icy chill on the water that trickled down Oake’s body as he manipulated and quickly struggled with the locks, as numbers on a countdown clock began to vanish and the tension rose. Breaking his bonds with seconds to spare, a cascade bathed relief across Oake whose trembling body and flushed face proved that, while an illusion, great work went into that feat. In fact, Darcy Oake truly worked hard for two hours on that stage. His greatest illusion may be how effortless he made it appear.

Darcy Oake performed at the Thunder Bay Community Auditorium on Friday November 20. His Edge of Reality tour continues across Canada and to Egypt through December.