BWW Interview: Chris Cox of THE ILLUSIONISTS - LIVE FROM BROADWAY talks about mind reading, and teaching magic to muggles
You know what's great about interviewing "The Mentalist" Chris Cox from THE ILLUSIONISTS-LIVE FROM BROADWAY? As a mind reader, it makes him an incredibly easy interview since he already knows what is going to be asked!
Chris Cox is a part of a world-renowned tour, which is playing at Broadway San Diego from February 28th - March 1st and filled with some of the best magicians working. But don't let that fool you, his entry into magic is one that thousands of children around the world are familiar with.
"I was at home in England and was ten years old and I got a letter that was delivered by an Owl. Seven years later, I graduated from Hogwarts as a mind reader. Hufflepuff and proud."
Besides an origin story that features an avian postal carrier and an education set in a castle that continually tries to kill the students (moving staircases are a health hazard Dumbledore!) Cox says that his love for theatre and magic really developed simultaneously.
"When I was six years old I got a magic kit and at Christmas, in Britain, we have this tradition of pantomime. Which is this family show and has lots of interaction. I remember my parents and grandparents taking me to the theatre as a young child and I always loved it and I always loved magic. They were always intrinsically combined.
I'm lucky enough to have fulfilled my dreams as a kid of wanting to perform on the greatest stages in the world by doing it with magic. Which I never thought possible, and it's incredible that a show like THE ILLUSIONISTS that tours the world means I can play London's West end, Sydney Opera House, Broadway, San Diego, and all these big cities with no real talent."
Except, that last part about having on talent isn't quite true. After all, you don't get to perform on this tour without being exceptional. So what exactly is the magic of mentalism?
"I am a mind reader. But I am a mind reader who can't read minds, so I am honest about the fact that no one can read minds. My job is to make it fun, stupid, silly, mainly hilarious and as entertaining as it can be to read your mind without really being able to read your mind- but if I could I'd be saying that I can't because it would make it easier for me."
Working and collaborating with amazing magicians also means always Cox is always refining his craft and performance style.
"The joy of a show like THE ILLUSIONISTS is that I am working with some of the greatest minds of magic, and every night we give each other notes and are constantly making our act better. It's a real joy. I was watching a video from 3 years ago and these tiny incremental changes all add up to it being different and something special.
Mentalism is a popular skill for television and film characters including shows including the aptly named "The Mentalist", and everyone's favorite "high functioning sociopath" Sherlock so what does a professional mentalist think of his fictional counterparts?
"I like it because it does the shorthand for me and people know what I am doing with having to overly explain it. Also, I can play against those expectations and conventions. My whole thing is to make it fast, funny, and as fun as possible. When people think it's mysterious and dark and then to see someone like me who is geeky, and jovial, it's fun to play with that."
Being able to be quick, funny, and accurate at reading people's minds means also having to keep up with current events all over the world, which is no easy feat.
"I need to constantly consume it so I can know what people are thinking about. Like when I'm in America I need to know what's going on. There are times where people are thinking of things and I have no idea. If it's sports and it's not Quidditch I have no idea."
The Magic of THE ILLUSIONIST is not the only stage magic Cox is involved with, he is also a collaborator on the magic seen in HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD. So what is it like teaching muggles about magic?
"It's integral to the story and I feel very privileged to be a part of that team and part of that world. To work with that team and develop those actors who have never done magic and create magic for them and make them realize how important it is to the story and do a show where the magic is never tricks."
Performing in American theatres also helps keep his love of theatre alive and well on tour, especially backstage.
"What I love in American theatres are all the tags people do on the walls backstage, I adore that. I look around to see if I can see the names of friends or people I've seen in shows. Theatre is in my blood and I enjoy seeing these pictures for different shows and I then sing those songs for the day for soundcheck."
He then started singing "Guns and Ships" from HAMILTON because, mind reader.
Final question, which is obviously the most important - as a magician, what is his stance on capes?
"I love capes. I wish I had the style to rock a cape. One of my favorite memories while working on Harry Potter in tech is it's an old theatre so they have air cooling to keep it cold for when the audience arrives and it was freezing. There were times in tech I would be sitting in the audience in cloaks from wardrobe and just swishing and walking around in cloaks - it was the greatest day ever."
THE ILLUSIONISTS -LIVE FROM BROADWAY is playing at Broadway San Diego on February 28th - March 1st. For ticket and showtime information go to www.broadwaysd.com
Photo credit: Claudia James and www.magiccox.com