For those of us who haven’t heard of or seen him before, it is too easy to underestimate Chris Cross. From the wacky name and monogrammed belt buckle, the aggressively arranged alliteration of his 2021 show title A Pandemonium of Parlour Magic in a Pandemic, to the line in his show description advising “NOT for the easily offended”, it’s easy to assume that he must be overcompensating for something. Fortunately for his audience this is absolutely not the case. Cross brings the magic to back up the swagger of his over the top character in a funny and interesting performance.
Perhaps more impressive than any of the magic is how skillfully Cross manages to playfully poke fun at the audience without coming across as a bully. It’s a tough thing to balance, if the many performers who are unable to do so are any indication, and Cross makes it look easy. Of course in magic shows the audience is generally called upon to take a more active role, and Cross’s participants on the evening of this review were well chosen. A cadre of Canadian students in particular rose to the occasion to perfectly match Cross’s energy on stage and enhance the show with their participation.
Magicians often claim that they’ll show the audience tricks that they’ve never seen before, but his claim typically leaves those who have seen many magic shows feeling disappointed. Cross, on the other hand, genuinely follows through with a series of tricks that this reviewer at least hasn’t seen before (and we at World Magic Review have seen a fair share of tricks). This part of the show that is a bit of a history lesson is exceptionally fun to watch. Cross’s enthusiasm for these weird old tricks that have long since fallen out of fashion breathes new life into the old props. His style seamlessly blends the more standard card and escapist material with the tour of historic props, in a one man demonstration of the range and development of magical performance.
Cross’s Pandemonium of Magic is a necessary stop at this year’s Fringe for anyone who has ever considered themselves to be a fan of magic, even if for no other reason than the historical interest of the old-fashioned props that he has brought back to the stage. That being said there are plenty of other reasons to see his show, between his comedy, sleight of hand skills, and perfectly choreographed escapology. It’s as difficult to pigeonhole his act as it is to keep him in a straitjacket, and his show is all the better for it.