Gather & Hunt New Zealand – Fatal Distraction Review

It turns out that magic does exist – and it’s in the form of a spiky haired, skinny-jean clad Brit. For one hour of pure magic and escapism, I suspended my judgment and stepped into Chris Cox’s world. The stage was set with an eclectic blend of stuffed bunnies, clocks and Starbucks mugs. It was a fast-paced, frenetic hour where it felt as if my mind wasn’t quite my own.

A quirkily different take on comedy, Fatal Distraction is a refreshing mix of a richly layered story-telling, stand-up comedy, music, some funky moves and a hint of theatre. Expect nothing and be prepared for anything as the mind-reader who doesn’t read minds, blows yours.

Chris talks as quickly as his jeans are tight. Close your eyes and let yourself be swept away as he weaves the story of a love that wasn’t throughout his show. He was impressive from the first moment; three random audience members were pulled onto the stage by a jumper-wearing (stuffed) ferret that was flung around the auditorium. One by one, the three participants drew a picture on the flip-board set up on stage, whilst singing a song. The wavering notes of Stand By Me were released by the first participant as he drew. Separated by a screen, Chris asked questions whilst drawing what he believed the audience member was. Almost predictably, the pictures were pretty much identical. There were gasps and laughs as the audience struggled to understand how the heck that happened.

This sets the tone for the rest of the performance. Audience participation features highly with Chris regularly coming into the audience to interact – throwing out pens, envelopes, questions – answers to which are written down and displayed prominently on stage. In fact, the spectacle begins before the show does when the audience are encouraged to write down something they want Chris to do during the show. The untouched papers sit in plain view on the stage as he duly performs what he asked his audience to think about.

The whole show is a sensory overload that barely allows you to catch your breath as you struggle to comprehend what you’re seeing. That’s the joy of it right there – it’s charming, it’s whimsical and it’s a touch of Hogwarts right here in Auckland. Although it’s not classically what you’d define as comedy, it still left a big fat smile on my face.

Written by:
Sarah Idle

Theatre Review New Zealand – Fatal Distraction Review

How does he do it? This lanky Brit defies the odds by getting into the selected heads of audience members and revealing incredibly specific thoughts. While openly admitting he cannot read minds, that appears to be exactly what he achieves with an almost 100% success rate on opening night.

At first I try hard to rationalise his processing – he must be a driven perfectionist with a photographic memory for a start – plus I suss one little quick-switch-magician’s-trick during the night… Yet the man is such a shrewd operator that finding a logical matrix for his overall mind manipulation, becomes a headache.

So instead of feeling comically violated, I decide to sit back and marvel at this master craftsman working the crowd and weaving his way into a full house of seemingly unsuspecting minds. That proves to be a far more entertaining (and relaxing) way to spend an evening with Cox.

Exploring the mind is in vogue, with TV programmes such as The Mentalist and Touch enjoying high ratings. Seeing the process live is far more engaging. The production itself is effervescent from the start, with Cox’s voice over asking us to write down contributions as we take our seats through to the opening credits on an AV screen.

Cox bounces on and welcomes us with a well-rehearsed stand up routine that is sprinkled with self depreciation about his skinny frame and unusual looks, as well as honesty about his abilities. I think his intention is to make himself accessible, fallible and likable, so we are more willing to relax and go on the journey with him. It works.

The show’s narrative involves Cox enlisting the help of various audience members to scribe, participate in and suggest various scenarios to drive his reoccurring story about how he found love. He even gives a little stirring sermon about love at the end. Apparently timing is everything, and it will all come together when the timing is right. Cox is fully wired and energized from start to finish. Intense, charismatic, talkative and smart, he drives the night at lightening pace, with the help of a stuffed toy and a bouncy ball.

A few opening night glitches by Jamie the technician do not detract from Cox’s mastery – it simply magnifies the organic abilities and sharpness of Cox as he works with whatever the night gives him. He takes a huge leap of faith, as do the audience, and the results are astonishing.

Even though I’m fully aware of the fact that he is a master of using word association and reading body language as he takes a good look at his audience, and even though I know he is using the power of suggestion by carefully planting significant indicative words in amongst what seems to be just stream of consciousness chat, and even though I know he is using some sort of subliminal messaging through his psychedelic images on the AV screen and seemingly random props scattered round the stage… I am still astounded by his abilities.

We are left scratching our heads in wonder and amazement. How did he know that man’s phone number??? How did he know that woman wanted him to recite one very specific line from a Harry Potter book?!?

Go see Cox – send him your thoughts and see what comes back. Extraordinary.

NZ Herald – Fatal Distraction Review

There I was, on my feet channelling my thoughts towards comedian Chris Cox up on stage. He was motioning towards me with his gangly arms, coaxing the thoughts out of me.

“Dance like C-3PO, dance like C-3PO,” I kept muttering to myself.

You see, I had to project to him, as hard as I possibly could, the word “robot”, which had been written down on a bit of paper by another audience member and shown secretly to me. Obviously, Cox had no idea what that word was.

But do you know what, the man who calls himself the mind reader who can’t read minds, actually read my mind. As I kept channelling my robot mantra he started dancing like C-3PO might have done at Chalmum’s Cantina in Star Wars.

I have no idea how he did it, but it was impressive stuff. And I have no idea how he did many things during his hour-long set that is a mix of love story, mind manipulation, magic show, and crazed chaos.

He’s not really a comedian, and told some unashamedly awful jokes, but what makes him funny is how masterfully clever he is.

Cox’s sign-off came with a plea to reviewers not to reveal too much of what goes on at his show, which is fair enough too since mind reading is all about mystique. So let’s just say if you are hauled up on stage, or told to channel your thoughts, go with it because it will be a hoot. And as your reward he will give a very cool “I love Cox” badge for your time.

EntertainMe NZ – Fatal Distraction Review

Blue lycra leggings aside, I would say Chris Cox is easy on the eyes, stomach and heart. As he pounced and stampeded across Q’s Rangatira stage last Saturday night, he made my eyes dart, supplied my belly with a ‘full-of-laughs-ache’ and ponder the existence of magic.

From go, Cox honestly repents his abilities as a mind reader. Then he anticipates thought after thought, and move after move. So maybe he was joking, maybe he can. Either way, it’s entertaining.

Cox oozed stage presence with his commanding pre-show voice through a loud speaker. Add legs plus all the rest and you’ve got a born showman and storyteller traversing a stage filled with his personal props. This even included a single clothes line. In the midst of his comedic hour, I couldn’t help but feel like he had us all pegged.

The audience is asked to fill in the gaps, and then decide, through kindergarten-like games, certain aspects of the woman and their relationship. Then, as though we’re in a comic Cluedo charade, Cox reviles to us – his bemused audience – that our responses were all predicted in advance. Even his inaccuracies turn out not to be inaccuracies, but rather to have been anticipated too.

Magic comedian or quippy anticipator, who knows what this young Englishman’s game is. Just know this: if you intend to be in Cox’s audience, ready yourself to hop on the Cox bandwagon and earn yourself a badge. Scouts honour, there’s a high chance of contribution, close to 1 in 5, that you will donate to the laughs personally.

Fatal Distraction is a clever, high energy game of “what if”. And Chris Cox is as self-described; aimless, mouthy, trashy, flashy, premature and rampant. But if you don’t leave wondering “how the f**k did he do that….?”, then you must have walked into the wrong show.

By Vivienne Frances Long

TVNZ – Fatal Distraction Review

A mind reader who can’t read minds but who’s a bit more honest about it?

The Tui billboard writes itself really, doesn’t it?

Except, with Chris Cox it about sums up his act.

As you wander into his latest show, Fatal Distraction, you’re greeted by ushers wanting to get you to fill out some information and provide a list of things for Chris to do in his act.

But even if you think you know where he’s going to go with it, I can guarantee you don’t have the slightest clue about where the journey’s going to take you.

He’s asked that secrets of the show aren’t revealed – and fair enough, I’ll afford this boisterous Brit that very courtesy – suffice to say, it’s loosely an act which has a story thread running through it. One of those threads is that you’re only one “What if” away from a different life….

However, the major thrill of this show is the audience participation – Chris’ show is not one where you can sit back and not get involved; thanks to the hurling around of a soft toy, his victims (in the loosest sense of the word) are chosen and feats performed that simply have you sitting there, scratching your head and voicing out “WTF?”

It’s very easy to be cynical about an act like this – sure, you can argue the suggestions are placed in volunteers’ heads by potentially loaded questions – though, to be honest, if you’re thinking that, it’s a surefire sign that this quick talking Brit, a crown prince of distraction, has got under your skin and got your grey matter puzzling away.

Cox is enthusiastic, fast talking, funny, (albeit with a bad line in some corny puns here and there) and the provider of a great hour’s worth of entertainment. It’s cleverly masterful stuff throughout and it’s guaranteed to leave you puzzled but greatly amused.

Thanks to a generally good natured and genial host, you’re happy to sit back and be confounded; Chris is even generous to stick around afterwards to meet the crowd.

I’d wanted to go to talk to him and profess to know how he’d done it (I didn’t have the first clue if I was brutally honest but pure swagger would never see me admit that) but sometimes, the magic is simply left alone and you’re best to bathe in the glow of a mind blowingly good, brilliantly entertaining show which leaves you beaming from ear to ear as it finishes.

By Darren Bevan.