Sunday Express Scotland: Fatal Distraction Review

THE stage is set with two flip charts, a flat-screen monitor and a bookcase filled with childhood paraphernialia. Then 27-year-old Chris Cox, described as a “magical mentalist”, enters the picture and suddenly nothing is quite what it seems.

This is a mind reader who says he cannot read minds but “somehow gets away with it”. From where I am sitting, he is pretty convincing in proving himself wrong.

Essentially, the show is about psychological tricks and crowd control, but with a healthy dose of humour and laughter, masses of audience participation and some astonishing bits of magic.

Based on a love story, the former assistant producer of Radio 1’s Chris Moyles Show, who hails from Bristol, tells us how he fell in love and had his heart broken.

Every now and again he asks us – at random, it seems – details about his girlfriend from her name to where she came from and somehow we get it right.

So how does he do it?

There is the monitor, of course, showing pictures that must influence our answers, there is the music and hints in his story that almost spell out what we should say.

But it still does not explain the accuracy and detail of our replies.

Are we all under some strange spell or is this young man simply brilliant? I tend to lean towards the latter.

He then moves on to chuck out copies of the 360-pages thick Fringe guide asking people to shout out page numbers at random, promptly reciting the acts listed in each section.

Maybe he has a secret assistant whispering the answers to him or maybe he just is that good.

Either way, this is an act well worth seeing.

Paula Murray

The Public Reviews – Fatal Distraction

Please note this review contains SPOILERS. If you’ve not seen the show yet it’s probably best you don’t read it.

It is increasingly common for comedians to spend part of their act responding to written requests submitted in advance. Chris Cox does not read the requests but leaves them in plain view on the stage later distributing them to the audience who communicate the contents mentally.

Yes, Chris Cox is a mind reader – but with a difference. He admits to being unable to really read minds. In that, he says, he is just like all the other mind readers but more honest. Using psychological insight, reading body language and just plain lying Cox is able to infer what the audience is thinking and manipulate their reactions. He demonstrates the technique with the old routine of ‘ pick a card, any card’ and guessing the right answer by watching the way the volunteer responds to positive enforcement or moves his eyes. Oh, and Cox cheats – later revealing how he achieved this. Cox demonstrates manipulation by inviting us to choose a song whilst stamping out the rhythm to a well known rock anthem. This might sound more like a lecture than a magic show but nothing can explain what follows including Cox using songs hummed by volunteers to guide him in duplicating their sketches. He goes one step further and the volunteer seems to have read the mind of Cox and unconsciously copied his work!

The bulk of the show is Cox getting us to create the narrative that runs through the show. Like a roller coaster ride it is exhilarating but also exhausting and a bit intimidating .On-stage Cox’s adopts the slightly manic personality of someone on the edge of his nerves – rattling through his material at breakneck speed. You find yourself co-operating for fear of what might happen otherwise. It is a slick show expertly delivered using a whole range of techniques and tricks– answers drawn from sealed envelopes and so on. None of this would matter if Cox couldn’t deliver the goods yet in the whole evening he makes just one wrong guess. The routine concludes with Cox accurately and amusingly responding to the telepathically communicated requests.

Cox demonstrates that he recovered from the break-up of his romance by extensive reading. In a prodigious feat of memory he recalls the contents of the programme for the Edinburgh Festival and the evening’s edition of the Manchester Evening News- right down to telephone numbers. It is an amazing achievement but re-enforces the impression that Cox really needs to get out more.

The magic tricks performed throughout the show are the deceptively simple sorts that are so hard to get right. To demonstrate his despair at a narrative twist Cox causes a paper heart to rip in two without touching. Later restoring a newspaper he earlier shredded. Moving on from this tale, Cox says and that what he now wants out of life is a good review. Happy to oblige.

Dave Cunningham

Swindon Advertiser – Fatal Distraction Review

Chris Cox is a mindreader who can’t read minds. He openly admits that from the very first breath of his show and says everything he does is a mixture of magic, body language, psychology and lying. And after seeing him for the second time I’m starting to think he is lying about not being able to read minds as there is no other explaination for the things he managed to achieve in the Arts Centre on Saturday night. That is unless he is some sort of pixie sent to meddle with all of our heads.

Whatever the truth is I am utterly bamboozled, as was everyone else in the audience.

While many people shy away from becoming the centre of attention in a show, Chris forces your hand and encourages the volunteers, which with this sort of show is a must as you can see the magic (or lying, or whatever it is) being done to you. Guaranteed to make you feel a little freaked out, regardless of how nice Chris is.

Throughout the show the audience were asked various questions, which I won’t give away but include things such as dates and bands, and when you consider the infinite number of answers available to each and every one of those questions – and the fact that certain members of the audience pulled ideas out of left field – it is hard to imagine how he could guess them all in advance. But he did. At the end of the show, one volunteer had the job of reading out a letter which had been pegged up on stage the entire time, which included every bit of information we’d supplied over the 80 minutes. It was outstanding and he didn’t get the standing ovation he rightly deserved after that.

He did ask everyone not to give away any of the tricks as that would spoil the show for other who may see it and I think it is safe to say that your secret is safe with us Chris. I am completely clueless so couldn’t spoil it even if I wanted to.

If you want to catch Chris on his tour, the next closest date to Swindon is Didcot, at the Cornerstone Arts Centre, on November 25. It might be a bit of a trek but it would be worth it – and that’s no lie.

Stephanie Tye

Fatal Distraction – Best Comedy Show 2011 – Venue Magazine Awards

Fatal Distraction has won the 2011 Best Comedy Show Award at the Venue Magazine Awards.

“Well, he slips in under the radar, though he’s technically a magician and mentalist… Yes folks, he’s been the coming man for a while now, but this is the year when Chris Cox – cion of Backwell, west of Bristol, and self-professed ‘mindreader who can’t read minds’ – came of age. His brilliant new show ‘Fatal Distraction’ visited Bath’s Rondo Theatre last month and threw us for a loop. “How does he do it? He’s probably made a pact with Satan, but what the hell – this is top entertainment.” Expect great things of this boy.”

Venue Magazine: Fatal Distraction Review

Chris Cox says he is a ‘mind reader who can’t read minds’, which may be true but he can certainly make it look as if he can. The boy has enough energy to power the National Grid; he talks so fast it’s a wonder he doesn’t burn his lips, but it’s all very entertaining.

The show is apparently constructed around multiple suggestions from the audience, so many of them that the mind starts to reel, as he throws a stuffed ferret into the crowd and bids us throw it from person to person giving out apparently random pieces of information, all of which, it turns out, he has predicted in advance. He appears to have memorised the entire Edinburgh Fringe programme, and this week’s Bath Chronicle. And more, much more. All this is done with many a cheeky quip, and the bemused participation of a packed and enthralled audience, many of whom wind up on stage. As with all good magicians, even his ‘mistakes’ turn out not to be mistakes and have been predicted in advance. Cox really does appear to know what people are thinking, while strenuously denying it.

One of the (many) things that distinguish this from your average magic show is that it has a narrative plot line, a love story about a relationship he has had with a particular girl; and the way he draws all the threads from the seemingly completely random audience contributions into a final delicious denouement prove how carefully, but bafflingly, crafted it all is. How does he do it? He’s probably made a pact with Satan, but what the hell – this is top entertainment. (John Christopher Wood)