It seems something of an injustice to wedge Chris Cox wedged in the ‘comedy’ category, but wedge him we must. Mind Over Patter is poles apart from the countless stand-ups and comedy troupes that litter the rest of the Fringe brochure. Cox’s show bears more similarity to the conjurers and mind-readers of Victorian England. He also adds a modern twist, by cheerfully informing us that none of what he does is magic or psychic, merely impressive psychology tricks and subtle manipulation of the audience’s perception.
Happily, he keeps everyone at a tantalising arm’s length from actually knowing how he does it. Though a sizeable chunk of Cox’s jokes consist of crap wordplay on his surname (Cox = cocks, geddit?), this doesn’t detract from his high-energy, consistently engaging stage manner. It’s impossible to elaborate on the tricks without giving everything away, but rest assured that they are well worth tolerating his schoolboy humour for. It’s unashamedly old-fashioned, family entertainment and it requires enthusiastic audience participation. And yet, amidst so much gnarled, cynical stand-up and tediously pretentious theatre, Mind Over Patter is a surprisingly enjoyable breath of fresh air.
As the audience jostle their way out, a considerably nervier Cox is at the entrance agitating. It is, he admits, the hardest night he’s ever had. It’s not unlike the scene in the Wizard of Oz where the curtain is drawn back to reveal an ordinary man pulling the levers. With Cox’s consummate professionalism however, the curtain remains – for the most part – firmly in place.