May 4, 2012 Chris Cox

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.

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