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No victory, but accolades aplenty

Oake gets standing O in Britain's Got Talent

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Darcy Oake: the birth of a star


Darcy Oake: the birth of a star Photo Store

Darcy Oake promised a dangerous stunt for the Britain's Got Talent finale and kept his word.

The Winnipeg-born illusionist/magician ratcheted up the tension Saturday during the live televised finals in London by tying himself in a straightjacket while hanging upside down suspended under a bear trap hanging from the ceiling by ropes.

The ropes would be set on fire and Oake said it took 53 seconds for the ropes to burn, which would in turn release the trap and snap it shut.

So, Oake had to free himself in 52 seconds or be cut to pieces by 16 serrated blades.

With a giant digital clock ticking behind him, Oake succeeded in freeing himself. He undid his leg straps and fell to the stage floor just as the rope burned through and snapped the trap shut.

He performed the same escape in Winnipeg in 2012 during two shows at the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre.

The 26-year-old received a standing ovation and the judges were effusive in their praise.

"It was so dramatic. I've never seen anything like it. You could win this on that," said David Walliams, a sentiment echoed by the other three judges on the ITV talent competition.

"I was mesmerized. My heart was racing," said fellow judge Amanda Holden.

Even the notoriously snarky Simon Cowell had nothing but positive comments for Oake, saying his three performances on the show were unique and of the highest production quality.

He added the fact Oake was Canadian made the competition more interesting.

"I think we are seeing the birth of a star here, I really do," said Cowell.

Unfortunately, Oake didn't garner enough votes from the viewers and he failed to make the top three. The winner of Britain's Got Talent proved to be the safe choice: pop-opera group Collabro. The male vocal group snatched up a cool 250,000 pounds (about $456,000 Cdn.).

Oake didn't seem disturbed, however, as he tweeted right after the finale: "Win or lose. This has been the most amazing experience of my life."

The magician had said previously if he won the competition, he would use the prize money to help build a drug rehabilitation centre in Winnipeg. His brother, Bruce, died of a drug overdose in 2011.

Oake's performance Saturday also paid homage to his brother as a large video screen on stage projected a happy image of the siblings together.

Oake's father, Scott, the veteran broadcaster from Hockey Night in Canada, said after the finale the rehabilitation centre is a family project that is still underway.

The Bruce Oake Memorial Fund is already being vetted by the Winnipeg Foundation and the Canada Revenue Agency, said Scott. He noted his son's emergence as a potential star can possibly push the project to fruition now.

"He's motivated, to an extent, by trying to make his brother's life mean something. The way to do that is to make something good out of the tragedy, and that will be the rehabilitation centre," said the senior Oake.

Oake wasn't surprised by his son's life-threatening stunt Saturday, but said he enjoyed watching others' reactions to the trick they hadn't seen.

"I don't think there was any huge expectation that he was going to walk away with (the win)," he said. "But he was very popular with the judges and had huge reactions on social media."

"Darcy told me he got more out of that show than he expected to," said Oake. "He went there to hopefully increase his profile and see if there were ways to foster a career out of (magic)... I'd say it worked."

"He'll probably have the luxury of never having to get a real job like me," he joked.

Though Oake didn't win, he was still busy celebrating with the rest of the British talent Saturday in the wake of the finale, so his dad only got to speak with him via text.

"He's very happy with how it turned out. He's the first magician to ever qualify for the final of that show and I believe for any of those talent shows," said Scott Oake.

"We've watched his performances since he was doing birthday parties and fairs, and this last one was extraordinary for us. We've seen how hard he worked and he's getting rewarded for it now."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 8, 2014 A4

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