November 29, 2011 Chris Cox

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

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