After dazzling millions of TV viewers on “Britain’s Got Talent,” where discerning judge Simon Cowell hailed him a “star,” and getting the rock-star treatment from legions of fans in the U.K., Winnipeg magician Darcy Oake is heading back to “the bat cave.”
Fresh off his fifth-place finish on the hit series in London, the 26-year-old says he wants to regroup and plan some new tricks at his “lab” in his hometown — a warehouse where he spends up to 12 hours a day creating jaw-dropping illusions with crafty contraptions such as a bear trap, bird cages and Plexiglas cubes.
“It’s in kind of a dodgy area of Winnipeg, but it does the trick,” Oake said with a laugh Friday during a stop in Toronto while en route to Winnipeg. “It’s tucked away, so nobody really knows there’s a warehouse there.
“If anybody who didn’t know me went in there, they’d be like, ‘What is this place? This is ridiculous.’ But it’s really cool.”
Oake placed fifth among 11 acts on the live finale of the show last Saturday after a dangerous performance in which he got out of a straitjacket while suspended by his feet — narrowly escaping the clutches of a giant bear trap hanging from a burning rope above him.
He’d done the trick before, but he might not do it again “because it’s too risky,” he said.
“I suppose I could be persuaded to do it again, but I don’t want to. You want to focus on your performance and connecting with a crowd and not worry about whether or not you’re going to die eventually.”
The specialist in sleight-of-hand and illusions said he knew he wanted to be a magician when his dad, CBC sportscaster Scott Oake, fooled him with a card trick as a kid.
“If it wasn’t for that moment, who knows if I’d be sitting here?”
He signed up for “Britain’s Got Talent” because he wanted to take his act to the next level after years of touring and headlining shows — on land and cruise ships — around the world. He immediately impressed the judges and audiences with tricks such as making doves appear out of thin air and making himself seemingly teleport.
Oake’s fame also soared while he was on the show: he said he couldn’t walk down the street without being approached by fans, and a video of his dove illusions on the series has garnered nearly 27 million views on YouTube and caught the attention of his idol, master illusionist David Copperfield.
“I was in Vegas ... and I went to a (Copperfield) show and somebody brought me backstage after,” said Oake. “His show started 10 minutes late and the guy who brought me back was like, ‘Yeah, the show started late because Copperfield was watching your video,’ and I was like, ‘Oh, nice! That’s amazing!’
“He came up and he was like, ‘Great job. Loved it. Keep doing what you’re doing.”’
Oake’s star is poised to continue to rise — he just signed with famed Creative Artists Agency, where top-tier clients include One Direction, Kanye West and Bruce Springsteen.
Then there’s his heart-throb appeal, which was often noted by the “Britain’s Got Talent” judges and is on display in a new Heat magazine spread featuring his chiselled bare chest and multiple tattoos that include the four suits in a deck of cards.
He said he hopes to continue performing on the road and get a television special performing feats that no other illusionists are doing.
“Not a lot of guys are doing actual stage illusions right now. Magic goes through waves and currently it’s been street magic for the longest time, like David Blaine and all those guys doing stuff out on the street, whereas the area that really captivated me was the theatrical production side of things.
“That’s the area I’ve tried to take it and that hasn’t been done in a long time, and I think that’s why what I did was fairly effective on ‘Britain’s Got Talent.’”