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Chris Cox

As part of the Shaftesbury Stories project, we’re releasing a weekly interview with someone who has played a role in our Theatre’s story.

This could be anyone – an audience member, a performer, a former or current staff member. We’d like to tell the stories of the people who have made our building what it is today.

If you’re interested in being interviewed for this project, please get in touch! We’d love to hear from you.

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The Illusionists

The Illusionists: Direct from Broadway performed a record-breaking ten week run of their internationally renowned magic show in summer 2019
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Our first interviewee is magician and mind-reader Chris Cox! Chris performed at the Shaftesbury Theatre in 2019 as part of the amazing line up for The Illusionists: Direct From Broadway. Since then, he has starred in The Illusionists’ Christmas show on Broadway, and was partway through a US Tour when the coronavirus pandemic caused performances to be cancelled.

I sent Chris some questions about his Shaftesbury Theatre stories – have a look at what he said.

 

Tell us about your favourite memory of the Shaftesbury Theatre.

Of course lots spring to mind, I remember running up and down a million flights of stairs between the stage and my dressing room, I remember Harry on stage door always greeting us with the most wonderful enthusiasm but most of all I remember nailing my exit. So let me explain. I was staying at home during the run of The Illusionists and realised there was a train I could catch which would get me home at 10.45pm, but if I missed that I wouldn’t get home till just before 12. Therefore I realised that if I ran off stage after the bows, got changed in the wings into my real clothes, ran upstairs to stage door, grabbed my bag which I’d placed by the door, and literally ran to the tube I would make the train. This led to confused looks from people walking out the theatre having just seen me bow to now seeing me run past the foyer, and annoying / hilarious games from my fellow cast mates who enjoyed hiding items of my clothes so I would often go home in mismatched shoes, or still wearing costume from the show as they’d hidden mine.

 

The Illusionists, 2019
Chris on stage at the Shaftesbury Theatre, 2019
Outside the Stage Door

In your act during The Illusionists: Direct from Broadway, you interacted a lot with our lovely audience. Are there any standout stories from these interactions that you’d like to talk about?

The audience was always a delight, the Shaftesbury is such a beautiful and warm room to play, it feels like everyone is super close, and I use lots of audience participation so always revel in those moments. I recall this bit where I would give someone in the audience a microphone and proceed to read their mind, telling them things about themselves there is no way I could know and at least 3 times we had people dropping swears of amazement, and me desperately trying to make the younger audience members forget what they’d just heard. I also love the fact that I ended my bit of the show (we were doing 12 a week) stripping down to a lycra leotard and gaining a standing ovation for looking utterly ridiculous / sexy.

Oh also quite often audience members would think of things for me to draw and then I’d try and draw what they were thinking of. The best of my drawings got stuck to the wall backstage, giving us a lovely little gallery. It wasn’t until the last show that we realised what we’d stuck them up with peeled off all the paint on the wall. So I’m very sorry to whoever had to repaint that wall.

 

We know that you’ve been a (fantastic) performer on the Shaftesbury Theatre stage. Have you ever been an audience member in the Theatre? What did you see?

SO many times. I was just thinking about what I’ve seen there and here’s what I can remember, Memphis (I LOVED THAT SHOW! Memphis Lives In Me is one of the best 11 O’Clock numbers ANYWHERE), Rent, Derren Brown, Hairspray (which I also saw in New York when it was at the Neil Simon Theatre on Broadway. In fact, that was the first Broadway show I saw and then last year I starred in The Illusionists on Broadway at the Neil Simon Theatre, funny that both The Shaftesbury and Neil Simon where I saw Hairspray I was later to go on and perform in. Turns our you can’t stop the beat), let me keep thinking, oh Baddiel & Skinner Unplanned, Rock Of Ages and Fame.

Our stage has seen many amazing performances over the last 109 years. Are there any shows that you wish you had seen, or would love to see again?

I’d love to see Memphis again. I still haven’t seen & Juliet, as soon as you reopen I’m coming to see that. I wish I’d see Rowan Atkinson when he played live there years ago,

A lot of people at the moment are finding comfort in watching the arts. Do you think that magic in particular might be helpful to audiences right now?

Any type of creative art can help people now. I’m loving watching the NT Live screenings, and also trying to come up with new tricks to use when this is all back into a new normal. The joy of magic is it makes you feel like a kid again, where anything is possible. Magic in a theatre is magic at it’s best, you’re seeing it in front of your eyes, you know it’s real, you know it’s not camera tricks, and it can just fill you with wonder and amazement. And we could all do with some of that in our lives.

 

Thank you so much to Chris for telling us his Shaftesbury Stories. Check back regularly for more interviews and other exciting content!

 

Chris with Harry, Shaftesbury Stage Door Keeper
In the Shaftesbury auditorium
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