Chris Cox: Control Freak
Show type: Edinburgh Fringe 2008
You think you have free will, you think you can decide what you choose, you think fate can't be changed, you need to think again! Chris Cox will change the way you think!
Control Freak focuses on our ability to control those around us, through a mix of magic, psychology, neuro-linguistic programming, reading body language, subliminal messaging, influencing and lying.
When it comes to tricks of the mind, we’ve all been spoiled by the jaw-dropping shenanigans of Derren Brown, setting expectations almost impossibly high. Those simpler days when audiences would have been happy to see a goateed weirdo in a cape guessing the number some stooge was thinking of have thankfully long gone.
Chris Cox brings youth and vigour to the genre, and his finale – if all is as it appears – is properly impressive. The cynic, however, may still suspect some technical or sleight-of-hand jiggery-pokery in his act, despite all his assurances.
He bills himself as the mind-reader who can’t read minds, admitting to what everyone pretty much knew anyway; that such displays are a mixture of psychology, neurolinguistic programming, magic tricks and the ability to read body language. It’s the magic trick aspect that’s cause for scepticism, though, as the inquisitive will spend as much time wondering how he did something as being impressed that he did it at all.
Such disbelief is only testament to the fact that his demonstrations are so remarkable you are left thinking that he couldn’t possibly have done them without cheating. But suspend your disbelief, and you’ll be gobsmacked.
Cox is a sprightly performer, animatedly and mischievously interacting with the audience, cheekily playing on their reluctance to get involved, even though such participation is clearly a vital element of a show like this. Some of the jokes, to be honest, are fairly ropey, but he’s not pretending to be a comedian.
He opens with an astonishing display of prophecy using a volunteer and the Fringe programme, and goes on to successfully determine all manner of seemingly unpredictable occurrences. Unusually, he gets the audience to do much of the work, too, collectively guessing a mobile phone number or selecting the right key to open a box. The tricks are made more impressive from this reversal, though Cox often subverts the result with a little joke.
Some tasks require a fair bit of preamble, but he keeps things lively, and the payoffs are worth the set-ups. And as he builds to his show-stopper, demonstrating that he guessed a complex series of events determined by various audience members long before he took to the stage, the pace builds up nicely.
Cox might not quite be Derren Brown – yet. But you don’t have to be able to see into the future to predict a good future for him.
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett