A REVIEW BY GABRIELLE MARIE
Since the age of six, Chris Cox has been under the spell of magic. Now, eighteen years on from the dawn of the Paul Daniels magic set, Chris brings us his award winning Edinburgh Fringe Festival show: Control Freak. The entertaining mind reader who can’t read minds brought his production to the Southbank Centre for his last tour date of 2008.
A tone of intrigue had been planted. As we entered the room we were greeted with the invitation to write down any word from the English language, and then drop it into the bowl that lay in wait on stage. I take my seat, and ponder whether the wide-eyed Chris Cox from the show-reel on stage will bring us a brand of Derren Brown style mind control, or Tommy Cooper tomfoolery. I hope for more of the latter, as my seat is still too close to the stage and I’m in no hurry to hear the words ‘…now look into my eyes’.
While we wait, our senses are titillated by the familiar sound of well known signature tunes, from classic films such as Jaws, Back to the Future, and even the unmistakable Pearl & Dean jingle (freshly squeezed from any pre-movie cinema experience). We were offered blink-and-you’ll-miss-it snapshots of the superstar-famous such as George Lucas, Cameron Diaz and Paul Daniels! Other subliminal images that flashed onto our retina were of popcorn and the words ‘listen and learn’. So…I do.
With bums firmly in virtually every seat, the magic was ready to be released. As the film roles on screen, none other than Keith Chegwin, (yes, that’s right,) pops into view to deliver a sprightly introduction to the man they call Cox.
A lithe figure leaps from behind the curtain. We meet Chris, who promptly engages us with his upbeat likeability and a toy ferret, (that is later christened as Freddie, through a series of random choices). No time is wasted in selecting unsuspecting volunteers by means of launching said ferret into the sea of metropolitans who harbour in this Thames-side audience. (The lucky person to catch the ferret selects someone else to join our magical mind reader onstage). A battalion of impressive tricks flow freely involving a hybrid mix of magic, NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming), reading of body language, and psychology to prove he’s a mind reader who can’t read minds.
Mr Cox recounts a personal story, which relays the message that when a course of events are altered, this can lead to a different set of consequences. We are challenged to consider if we have free choice and free will, and the possibility that our actions are shaped by other factors. Chris reminds us that “our ability to make decisions makes us unique”.
This moral threads though an intricate show that is guided by the lightning speed mind of the accomplished producer. What we may not know at first glance is that Chris has gained striking experience in the realm of entertainment production, working with luminaries such as Chris Moyles and Russell Brand.
Chris ends the show with a spectacular DVD finale that ties together a complex series of events. We watch as the revelations unfold like a Poirot mystery conclusion.
Amazed and entertained, we applaud the mind-maestro, who is now circling the stage with a victory lap while sporting a shimmering cape. I collect my tongue-in-cheek ‘I heart Cox’ badge from the man himself after the show, and leave under the spell of this generous performer.