Chris, you have had a very busy career, TV and radio performances, theatre performances. You’ve even had five UK tours. What’s your favorite platform for performing? Do you feel at home mostly on stage or in close-up environment and why?
Chris Cox – I don’t perform close-up, I never have done, nor do I do table hopping. I’ve been offered the chance to do it a few times, and I’ve always said no. I just do stage or cabaret. Basically, if people are sat quietly facing the front, watching me, I’m happy. It’s just always been the medium I’ve loved. Ever since I was young, theatre was all what I wanted to do. The reason I took my first mind reading show to the Edinburgh Festival, is because I wanted to go perform, and I was getting quite good at the mind reading stuff. So yeah, I’m genuinely– out of everything, I’m at my most comfortable, and feel on top of my game, when I’m on the stage. It suits me. It’s what I like doing. I’ve got real respect for the guys who go up and do close-up and table hopping, because I couldn’t do it, and it feels like hell on earth to me. I’m happy to do something in a theatre of 3,000 people. That doesn’t bother me in the slightest. Normally, because it just have ten people in it. I’ve massively overbooked a venue.
Being mind readers, do you indeed sit in silence, having conversations with each other on the set of Killer Magic?
Chris Cox – We stay in silence, just having no conversations to each other, and looking at Twitter on our phones. We never really talked about mind reading really, because I’m the mind reader of the show, and Dee Christopher doesn’t really do his mind reading. He does more the dark, Gothia side of magic. There’s not been any crossover there really, and I think we’ve got hugely different styles and probably very different points of view on where, how we want that form of magic to come across. I think Dee probably wants stuff to feel real to his audience, and maybe a little scary, where my whole thing is, from the get-go, I say I’m a mind reader, who can’t read minds. I can’t actually do any of this stuff. So that’s where I come from. It’s all about entertainment for me. I don’t care whether people think I’m doing it for real or not, as long as they’re enjoying it. Sometimes putting in a nice bit of process will help them to enjoy it more, and sometimes I’ll just do it and hopefully shock, amuse, amaze. Shock, as in people go, “Huh, didn’t expect that,” rather than sort of scary, geek, magic style shock. Again, geek magic as in. “Oh, someone’s eating a razor blade,” rather than, “Oh, look at his big glasses.”
Do you find that comedy mixes well with mind reading, and what advice would you give people who are wishing to add an element of comedy to their performances?
Chris Cox – I wouldn’t say comedy mixes well with mind reading. I wouldn’t say comedy mixes well with anything, unless you’re naturally quite funny, and comedy’s a thing you’re good at and you like doing. It’s all down to personal preference. So for me, I think I’m a fairly funny person, and stuff that I like the most is funny things. I’m fairly quick-witted, and I write comedy stuff for other people. I use that to my advantage. It’s natural for me to be funny and to try and find a joke, where I can search for a joke. I then do mind reading, because that’s the form of magic I’ve always enjoyed. I sort of mix the two, and I quite like that thing of people laughing and then being amazed. I know Ben thinks very strongly, that it’s a difficult thing to go from laughing to being amazed naturally. He makes a very good point often, that my tricks get lost and would be more impressive, if I played them seriously. But for me, I wouldn’t enjoy that half as much. I quite like possibly the idea, that the humour disarms people so you can create.
My thing has always come from doing Edinburgh shows, so I want people to talk about my show. If they can laugh and get to the end of a trick and go, Oh wow, and give it a fairly decent round of applause, rather than the applause it should get, if I presented it as the miracle it is. My hope is that, as people go home, they’ll think about and go, Actually hang on a minute. They’ll start to be even more impressed the more they think about it, and therefore hopefully, talk more about the effect. But for me, particularly in this show as well, humour is where I’m lying. I want people to be entertained ,and to laugh at me or with me, or just have a smile on their face because that’s what I would like to see, so I’m trying to give that to other people. I also have a surname which allows me to pun immensely, so comedy’s pretty much– if I didn’t have that, 90% of my act would be gone.
Ben Hart – I was going to say, ironically, that’s the least funny answer to a question you’ve ever given.
Chris and Ben, what’s the best thing about Killer Magic? What sets it apart from other magic shows on TV?
Chris Cox – The best thing’s the paycheck, obviously.
Ben Hart – The best thing’s being able to work with the other magicians.
Chris Cox – Its nice. It’s taken us all out of our comfort zones a bit. I’ve learned a lot. Ben and I’ve worked together before, and I have a lot of respect for Ben, and I’ve learned a lot from him. He enjoys my company, and puts up with me I think?
Ben Hart – Its really nice working with Chris, because we’ve worked together in the past, but its been even more interesting working with these other magicians who were not my– I was going to say, they were not my friends previously, in that, I had never met them, and now we are all very good friends. Together we like the Adams Family, or some hilarious, bizarre sitcom, where the gentleman magician has to share with the geezer, the goth shares with the girl, and the geek– well the geek…
Chris Cox – Just sits on his own in front of the computer.
Ben Hart – I’m talking about our flats by the way. Not bedrooms.
Chris Cox – Yes, that’s what sets it apart. I think it generally feels like a different magic show, and a magic show for people who might necessarily avoid magic shows. It’s so fast paced, you’ve got no time to check your Twitter during the show. The tricks are really different. It’s a bit like– it’s good because if there’s someone you don’t like, or style of trick you don’t like, there’ll be another one along in a minute. Some people might not particularly like mentalism, so it doesn’t matter, because three minutes after my trick, you’ve got Ben doing an incredible piece of slight-of-hand. It’s a real mix of variety in terms of effects. It’s interesting to see, as a creative exercise for people watching, who want to think creatively. To look at the different angles we take on one set theme.
Ben Hart – It’s a bit like if you go to a magic convention, and you see a really brilliant magic convention show, where act after act is really, really good. That’s kind of what we’ve got, going on with this show.
Chris Cox – It’s like a magic convention that you’ll never see. That will never happen, that there’ll be act after act, which is good.
Ben Hart – The magic we’re doing is very original. We’re approaching it from a different angle to other television magic shows, in that we’re absolutely doing things live in a continuous take. It’s completely necessary. Because our show is a competition amongst each other, we have to be able to witness a genuine and live trick. So, you’re seeing very honest performances.
Chris Cox – Yeah, and despite the fact there are cuts for time, what you are seeing can be performed live. The people taking part, saw what you see as the final product. That’s the thing they expect, particularly for Ben and I, who do live shows. Everything I do, I want to be able to replicate on stage.
Ben Hart – Absolutely. Some of the stuff we’ve shot, will make it’s way into my live show, and some of the stuff we’ve shot has had it’s basis in my live show.
Ben, when’s your live show and how can people get tickets?
Ben Hart – Well, you can get tickets– my live show is called Ben Hart, The Outsider, directed by television’s very own Anthony Owen.
Chris Cox – Now, I know why you got the gig.
Ben Hart – He’s executive producer on this TV show, and we’ve now been collaborating for a couple of years. Anthony’s brilliant. Working with Anthony really helped me to understand how to sculpt a show, to tell a story. My show has a sort of loose narrative through it. He brought to the project, the sort of understanding of film and television that we could put on stage. So we have segments of video which are intercut with live performance. I’m touring throughout April, May, June and a couple of dates in July. I’m going all over the country and abroad. The show includes all kinds of sleight of hand. It’s manipulative type magic. I was really lucky this year, in that it was a big success at the Fringe, which was a surprise to me. I worked with Anthony Owen,
Chris Cox – Hey Ben, funny you should ask, I also have a live show to promote.
Ben Hart – So Chris Cox has brilliant live show called Fatal Distraction starting on the 3rd of May.
Chris Cox – It’s like no other mentalism show. It’s a proper narrative-based theatre piece with occasional lulls,s, little bit heartbreak, and some proper decent mentalism, the likes of which you’ve never seen. here’s some magic tricks in there. It’s basically is good show, people like it.
Ben Hart – I can tell you now, it’s a brilliant show. It’s playing in a lovely venue on the Southbank – the Udderbelly.
Ben, what is it like consulting and creating magic to be used on stage and on TV? Do you find it stressful or does the pressure adds to the excitement of what you do?
Ben Hart – The pressure definitely adds to the excitement, but the most brilliant thing you can do as a magician or creator, is to create something, and then pass it over to a performer that does it better than your wildest dreams. I’ve been very, very lucky to work with some brilliant magicians but if I’m honest, I prefer working with actors who have no magic ability, because you don’t need to go back, and erase all of their bad habits. When you create a trick for the theatre or film or television or whatever it might be, and you watch an actor, the first step is, can they understand the technique? In which case, you might have to– either they can or they can’t. Sometimes, you have to make it easier. Then, as soon as they’ve got the technique, at that point, you’re in this brilliant position, where you can sculpt it working with somebody who has their own brilliant talents, into something which is just – it transforms. I’ve worked on plays, where I’ve given the actors very, very basic magic to do, and it ends up, looking like a miracle. I guess, some readers will know I’ve done television consultancy, including working with– I did a bit with Ben Earl, who’s the most brilliant sleight of hands technician. That was really fascinating, because I had to be much more of a sort of– my technique is nowhere near as good as his technique, so I had to watch much more like a sort of coach or director, and that was very interesting, but also slightly stressful, because it brings out all of my magic consultant insecurities.
You have insane sleight of hand technique. What is your practice regime like? Do you practice all the time or in controlled bursts?
Firstly, thank you Dominic Reyes for commenting on my sleight of hand technique. I believe magicians should focus less on the actual technique of the trick, and a lot more on their body language. My practice regime is usually to video everything, and to playback the video and watch. Somtimes, you notice that your fingers will flicker in the wrong place, or your hands will show muscular contractions at the wrong moment. All of those things are only visible on video. If you want to be really, really regimented about it? Film yourself practicing, wait a couple of days, and then watch it back. Then you will see the truth very, very clearly. It’s a terrible and painful process and I advise every magician to pick up their phone – I assume everyone’s phone has got video – stick the phone on the sideboard, point it at yourself, and film yourself doing a joke. It’s the most valuable thing you can do.
If you get the opportunity to do a show – a run of a show – you should grab it with both hands. Because if you do, for example, the Edinburgh Fringe, you can do 27 shows in a month – night after night. That’s more than most magicians do in the year, so you really, really learn a lot as a performer by having that sort of repetition. Also, it forces you to mix with other performers, and it forces you to get audience feedback. The idea that a show is never finished, is really important. Creating a show, you go through this endless evolution, which is very necessary. When you go out to do a close-up magic gig, most magicians do their material the same way all the time. But if instead, they saw it as a constant evolution, and instead, every night they’d change something, they’d be much better magicians I suspect.
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