Reviewed by Kirsty Leckie-Palmer
In some ways, comedy and magic are very similar. Both rely on subverting expectation or diverting attention, and then suddenly – at the right moment – releasing the rabbit from its millinery fortress or punching home the right line. Chris Cox doesn’t so much pull a rabbit from the hat in his comedy magic showFatal Distraction, as produce a few fully-grown elephants.
You’ll feel a part of Fatal Distraction as soon as you make your way into the Pleasance King Dome, and it is highly likely you’ll have your mind ‘read’ at some point throughout the show. Refreshingly, Cox offers an immediate disclaimer that he can’t actually read minds. This consistent honesty makes for a far more credible performance than some of his contemporaries, who either rely on us believing in magic (patronising) or make it seem like they’re doing something very special by explaining a few illusions (stingy). With Cox, we know he’s doing something clever, we know there’s a rational explanation… and we don’t feel we need to know any more.
Cox’s approach to magic is undoubtedly distinctive, and doesn’t come with the frustration inherent in many magic acts. Cox achieves his laughs more through showmanship and self-deprecation than anything else, and even manages to bring a little poignancy to the hour. He engineers the show around a story involving a past relationship, weaving his tricks into a sweet and enjoyable tale. There’s also a stuffed ferret in a jumper.
I recall at several points having to cover my mouth, to conceal the fact it was hanging open in a mix of shock and excitement. (Think of the sort of expression which, were I to wear it to the office, which would almost guarantee some investigation into my mental health.) By the finale, without giving too much away, everything that had happened throughout the show came together in a well-orchestrated harmony of stupefaction – and Cox rocketed in my estimation from a cheeky, youthful trickster to a bewildering talent.
At one point, things took a turn for the unexpected, as a young audience member selected at random decided he didn’t want to be on stage. Cox handled the shy young chap with such warmth and professionalism, it had little impact on the show, other than reassuring the audience he’s probably quite a nice guy.
Fatal Distraction is a highly accessible magic show – and Chris Cox is a hard-working, enthusiastic performer, who has put together a world class act with panache. I’d struggle to think of any negatives, though perhaps someone with a pathological fear of stuffed ferrets would disagree. The show I attended was a magnificent experience for anyone; the entire audience were brimming with goodwill as they left. I’d also like to clarify that Chris Cox’s mind control in no way influenced this review. Although even if it had done, wouldn’t that prove my point?