Chris Cook



Chris Cook is a Free Fringe institution, now returned to his perennial late afternoon slot in the ballroom of the Voodoo Rooms, a PBH magic hub.  Like many of us, Cook has done some reflecting over the course of the pandemic.  Unlike most of us, he has transformed his ruminations in to a thoughtful and inspiring magic show, Reflections. 

For the repeat attendees in his audience the tricks and themes of Reflections may feel reminiscent of Cook’s past shows.  A few strong magical and emotional beats from 2017’s Control come through in particular.  Fans of Cook’s more meta work will also not be disappointed, as the show develops to touch on the unacknowledged energy that we share in in-person interaction through the lens of the relationship between a magician and their audience. 

The magic in Cook’s shows is always flawless.  A highlight of this year is a mentalist effect featuring a multicolored cube.  The first half of this is often performed in popular late-night mentalist acts, but here Cook adds a magic twist that keeps the audience on their toes.  The segment leading in to this, that began with a full audience participation, is a highlight as well.  This got several individuals fiercely competitive for the chance to join Cook onstage.  At the reviewed show Cook dealt with an unusually lively audience, but had little trouble maintaining control of the room. 

Cook’s brand of emotive magic is invariably an absolute delight.  His late afternoon shows are an invitation to consider your life, regardless of the title (“Reflections” of course openly encourages this), while watching some magic and listening to some stories.  If you’re open to it this will be a comfort—a sort of guided meditation with plenty of jokes and a sprinkling of magic.  Cook is gradually making the world a better place one audience at a time.  While he talks about how his audience can show their appreciation for his magic tricks, this is his biggest effect and it’s a shame that there’s no defined moment for him to appreciate it. 

It’s difficult to review Cook without sounding like a member of his cult, and perhaps it only makes it worse to say that if you attend his shows you’ll understand.  That being said?  This is definitely one to see.  His always are. 

More information on Cook and his performance dates can be found here.


Chris Cook regularly tests the boundaries of what can be defined as a magic show, and Consequences, his new and most meta show, is no exception.  It is less of a “magic” show and more of an exploration of how magic shows, or at least Cook’s shows specifically, are made.  There might be the initial fear that, due to this subject matter, Consequences risks becoming self-absorbed and bogged down in the individual problems of this one performer.  Fortunately the other regular feature of Cook’s shows is his inspirational take on audience participation, at which he is almost uniquely effective—and in this Consequences is again no exception.

Those who have seen Cook previously might recognize many of the tricks used in Consequences as his dependable standbys.  This makes sense in the context of the show.  In a scene where he pretends to be performing at a children’s birthday party it makes sense to see him perform a card trick with an especially sweet ending.  In a show with an overarching theme of struggling to come up with new ideas this recycling of tricks is simultaneously cleverly immersive and cheekily self-referential.

Cook’s magical abilities are superb.  Perhaps in part because Consequences uses so many recycled tricks, Cook performs each one essentially flawlessly.  This is particularly important in a show such as Consequences, as a less skilled magician complaining about the trials of successful show-writing might come across as bitter and resentful.  Cook’s undeniable expertise bolsters Consequences’ implicit claims to genuine self reflection.

Many magic shows end with the magician revealing that they had predicted the audience’s behavior from the very beginning, turning the entire show into one big mentalist trick.  The ending of Consequences is almost exactly the opposite.  Cook attributes the success of his final magic trick to the power of a chosen audience member’s aspirations rather than his own skill, and his final “reveal” is nonsensically circular in a way that somehow still supports Cook’s ultimately inspirational message.

Consequences is an interestingly constructed and heartwarming magic show with a lot of character.  Cook’s onstage persona might be seen to struggle with creating an inventive new show, but the effectiveness of Consequences is evidence in support of Cook’s imaginative talents.


More information on Chris Cook and his performance dates can be found here.



Chris Cook performs Entropy differently every evening, varying the show apparently largely based on whim.  This, he explains, is one of the reasons why he has chosen to call it Entropy—the universe’s tendency toward chaos, a fittingly playful anti-theme for this show.

Many of the tricks performed on the occasion of this review showcase Cook’s creative approach of magic.  He might start a routine card trick, but he doesn’t stop after finding his participant’s card, instead building a new trick from the remnants that would more commonly be discarded.  Magic fans will almost certainly see something new and different the first time that they watch Cook perform.  In Entropy, there is a decent chance that even those who have seen him frequently will get to do so as well.

Cook was unlucky in having an especially disruptive audience member, but he did not let her derail his show, instead allowing her to join him onstage and become a part of it.  When she takes up more of his time than planned, Cook ramps up his energy levels to deliver a speedily satisfying conclusion to the show at the last minute.  Cook sets a casual tone for this performance and looks like he is enjoying his time on stage, but when circumstances are less than perfect the audience gains a better appreciation for how hard he is working to curate this experience for them.

The degree of spontaneity in Cook’s performance of Entropy is evidence of his incredible skill as both a magician and a performer.  Cook has earned the calculated laziness of not carefully planning the flow of his show. He has perfected his individual routines and transition patter to the point that he can confidently use them to build the show that he wants to perform on the day.  Watching a performer with that much trust in his own abilities, clearly justified by his performance, is always going to be a pleasure.

Cook is unflappably charming and his magic technique is flawless.  The specifics of Entropy might change from one day to the next, and this is a point in its favor.  After seeing it once, the audience will want to return as soon as they can to find out what else Cook is capable of.


More information on Chris Cook and his performance dates can be found here.



Chris Cook mentions in his show that this is his fifth year at the Fringe. Chance is undeniable proof that he’s not only not lost his charm, but is only getting better with experience. Cook is the model of a modern magician in his open affect and obvious affability. Not a magician here to trick you- well, yes, here to trick you, but not to taunt you with it. It’s clear that Cook sees his attendees not just as people for him to fool but as people to invite to an opportunity of wonder, to imagine a life with less repetitive drudgery and more delight.

It’s apparent immediately that Cook puts his volunteers at ease, an impressive feat when pulling them out of the safety and anonymity of the audience to stand on stage in front of everyone and do something they haven’t prepared for. But he instructs well, doesn’t mock, and is quick to make himself the butt of any joke before subjecting his volunteers to it. This has the secondary effect of endearing the rest of the audience to him (because who knows who could be next?) and, combined with his honest humor and breathless exuberance, creates a great atmosphere for the show.

Cook doesn’t shy away from anything that would make his magic relatable to his audience, and in Chance this involves political content. Implying a political stance in a magic show at the Fringe can be risky- your audience probably didn’t come expecting it the way they could for theatre or comedy, and it’s unlikely that at least some of them don’t strongly disagree with you. Due to a slight but noticeable muting of the audience’s good cheer surrounding his political content, it’s possible that this choice is occasionally having a real effect on Cook’s show. But a magician is not a vehicle for illusions, they should have principles and ultimately this political engagement is a daring and admirable choice. Cook proves that magic doesn’t have to be a frozen moment of late 19th/ early 20th century “golden age” that so many magicians like to hearken back to and romanticize, but instead can thrive as a sharp, to the point engagement with politics and his audience’s anxieties. Never faltering or losing a beat of his abounding charisma, Cook can dip into places more vulnerable, more uncertain, more real- and takes his audience with him.

Cook illustrates in Chance the breadth of possibilities of magic; the stories and situations and emotions that can engage with it. His magic enlivens his audience and makes them receptive to his finale- his encouragement and inspiration to breathe, to let their defenses fall, and to remember their basic human connection. Chance is not only a fantastic magic show to experience Cook’s impressive skills and great humor, but a reflection on our unbreakable capacity for wonder and hope, despite it all.


Chris Cook can be found at the Voodoo Rooms (Venue 68) during the 2018 Edinburgh Fringe at 15:10 from August 16-26

More information on Chris Cook and his performance dates can be found here




Chris Cook is quite probably the hardest working magician at the Edinburgh Fringe. A consummate professional who holds his audience in his thrall during his stage show, in Concealed, Cook also proves that he has the personability necessary for a fantastic close-up performance.

Concealed’s venue is a tiny room in the basement of the Street bar. The scent of weed wafts gently down from above, and the decor includes disco balls, a cherub, ducks, and twee wallpaper. And in the middle of all this, Cook practically vibrates as he bounces endearingly from taking music requests, gulping down an espresso martini, and bantering with his audience with charming earnestness as he tries to fit everyone into the room.  The place is tiny but the show well attended- knowledge of Cook’s skill has spread by word of mouth and everyone is eager to see for themselves.

Cook performs the traditional, but he performs the traditional well. Even if you’re familiar with magic and you’ve seen the tricks he does before- and surely you have, as he does a rendition of the oldest trick in the world- nothing ever feels even remotely stale. He breathes exuberant almost to the point of manic energy into this intimate performance. Close up magic is a really fast way to separate the truly talented magicians from the deceptively clever showmen and Cook is, actually, both. Every trick is precise, and if it weren’t, we would never have been given the opportunity to realize. Every joke hits, and if it hadn’t, it would have been transformed into one that did. Cook is as quick on his feet as he is with his hands, and even though watching him work makes one exhausted for him, it’s also oddly exhilarating.

Concealed is a performance intentionally under-advertised, because at heart it’s just a guy, keen about magic, sharing it with a small and cheerful crowd. There’s no overarching theme, there’s no moral to no story, it’s a sparse show content in in its own purity, and a purely good show.


Chris Cook can be found at The Street (Venue 239) during the 2018 Edinburgh Fringe at 19:45 from August 15-25. 

More information on Chris Cook and his performance dates can be found here



MagicFest’s Secret Room events are fantastic, as the chosen venues lend a theme to the performances, and the addition of the historical lessons of the buildings ensure that the evening is about more than magic.  This second point is especially true for the Secret Room at Lauriston Castle.  The event features three magicians, but the castle itself is the fourth star of the show.

The audience is first led into the study, where Billy Reid begins the evening’s magic.  Reid is perhaps the most true to theme.  Inspired by a historical cabinet maker who lived at Lauriston Castle, he incorporates a wooden puzzle into his act, and he concludes with a coin trick inspired by the lost coin collection of one of the castle’s former residents.  Reid’s gorgeous illustrated card trick sequence set to “Caledonia” is a highlight, working particularly well in this smaller venue.

The drawing room of the castle barely contains the boisterous character of Ian Kendall.  His tricks are classic, featuring cups and balls or ropes and rings, but his jokes keep the audience laughing, and his rapport with the group draws everyone into the performance.  Kendall does integrate a bit of a history lesson in to his act, and expresses suitable admiration for the room that he is performing in, but only very tenuously links his tricks to the history of the venue.  He makes this work as his larger-than-life personality easily distracts the audience from any thematic absence.

Chris Cook concludes the performances of the evening in the castle’s library.  The tidy precision of Cook’s magic style is exceptionally effective with this smaller audience.  In keeping with the theme, Cook uses an audience participant’s phone for his final trick, because, as he explains, these days the internet serves a similar purpose that a library would have back when Lauriston Castle was built.   While this does run in to technical difficulties, Cook maintains the momentum of his performance to deliver his reveal.  It is perhaps all the more impressive for the unplanned extra suspense.

Cook’s performance brings the magic of the evening to a close, but the audience is lucky enough to have the opportunity to stick around for a quick tour of the remaining rooms of the castle.  This includes two real secret rooms hidden in the performance venues.  As the event begins with a brief re-telling of the story of the castle and ends on this tour, the actual magic shows feel surrounded by history.

Lauriston Castle is an incredible venue for this Secret Room event, and the magic matches the excellence of the architecture.  The assortment of magicians is well chosen, as their contrasting styles ensure that each of their performances feels distinct, and the contrast makes the event feel balanced.  The castle and illusions combined ensure a wonderful evening steeped in all the best history and magic Scotland has to offer.


Now that Edinburgh Fringe 2017 is over, our reviewer Hannah got to sit down and chat with Chris Cook, whose shows Control and Concealed we absolutely loved.

Hannah: The first thing I wanted to ask you, what is it you want your audiences to get out of your show?

Chris: The [performance of Control] you came to, I feel like the guy on stage really dug that out of me. And I think that was the moment I really realized it. What I want is for the audience to  leave that room better people than when they came in. And I think one of the ways we do that is by building a little community, by getting to know each other better and feeling like we’ve made something, not like we’ve just watched something, but that we’ve experienced something. What came out of me that day is that it’s really easy to impress people- as a magician I think it’s really easy to make people clap and laugh and to impress them, but it’s hard to make people think and it it’s really hard to make people feel, and that’s all I want to do.

And that’s what the show is about, that’s what the journey is. People come into that room and they’re expecting a magic show, so I have to deliver, I have to impress them in the beginning,  I have to make them clap and laugh and be wowed. And then half way through, I’ve got them on board, now I can do what I really want to do, which is to start to make them think, think about their own lives and why they are not the people they want to be. Then by the end of the show I don’t know if we make it, but my hope is people will feel something. I think the person who helps me with the finale, they will feel something, and I hope the audience sat there really do as well. It’s not for me to say, and it’s also not for me to ram it down people’s throats. If you can make a connection with the show, that’s amazing, if it didn’t quite hit, that’s fine. Maybe it’s my fault, maybe it’s just not the show for them. But I think all I really want to do is make people feel and make people better. I think humans are great, I think we can leave that room and look out for each other and make the world a better place. That’s my hope.

Which of the life goals that you talked about in “Control” are you going to work on first?

One of them was just to paint some more, and I think I’m going to do some painting this evening, now that the Fringe is over and I’ve got some free time. That might be one I start on first. One of them was to spend more time with my brother, which I’ve already started to do.

I think the ones that are more important to me are the ones that are harder to do, but I think that’s okay. I don’t think life should be too easy, like if life was easy it would be boring so- I’ve never visited some family that I have in New Zealand, so I really need to make that happen. There were quite a lot of travelling things. I really want to get my qualification so I can go scuba diving and that’s going to require some work and some time, and I’ll probably book a holiday away somewhere so that I can do it somewhere beautiful. I don’t know which of them means the most to me. One that I was just talking about, the dream was to do a show at the Fringe that isn’t a magic show. I think that will be the hardest. If I can come up with a way of still being entertaining and still connecting with an audience, but without doing magic, I think that might be the most difficult thing I do, but maybe that’s the most important.

So what exactly is the appeal of magic to you?

The appeal? Hmm. I don’t know, I don’t think that there is an appeal. I actually don’t think I like magic. I think magic is often about – a magician’s aim is often to fool an audience, and I think inherently with that comes making a fool of the audience, and I don’t want to make a fool of the audience, I want to connect with them and empower them and make them better. I don’t want to make them look stupid, I want to make them feel smart I guess. So actually, I don’t think there is an inherent appeal with magic, I think magic is often a thing where you see something and think, that’s a really impressive trick, but I could never see myself doing something like that because that’s- it wouldn’t fit with what I’m trying to achieve. So I don’t know- I realize that might be a bit of a weird answer to that question but I do think I want to use magic as a tool, not just do magic. I guess I want that tool to be a tool of encouragement and try to make the audience connect and feel better. I really don’t want to use magic to make people look silly or make a fool out of them.

As a magician, what kind of audiences have you found to be the most difficult and the easiest to entertain?

(laughs) Sometimes Sundays can be really hard? Cause everyone’s had a big night out and my shows are quite early in the morning. Sometimes tired crowds can be hard. I feel like I’m quite good at pitching the audience, figuring out where they’re at and getting myself on the same page. So like, I can do shows that are quite sweary and political, but I’ve also done things for a lot of kids that are more gentle, or whatever. Some of the most difficult audience are people who are drunks, or sometimes people that are just too excited. Like with the Control show, on the show that you came to, it was amazing, the crowd were so on board, like everything that I said was hilarious that the jokes that maybe used to get a little laugh were getting rounds of applause and huge cheers and I just remember thinking, “I’m not going to be able to get to the end of this show. I will not be able to do the gear change that takes this from like funny silly magic show to thoughtful meaningful audience interaction.” And  I think  we really got there by the guy I got on stage and we started asking each other questions. But sometimes that can be hard, audiences that are so excited that they’re not even really paying attention.

And the easiest?

The easiest are people who have seen you before and they know you and they like you. Or they’ve been recommended you, so they show up to that room knowing that they’re going to have a good time so you don’t have to win them over. They’re probably the easiest crowd.

What would you describe as the most rewarding aspect of performing  for audiences?

I really like it when people get in touch and say “you were the best show we’ve seen in years,” like when people do that it’s really amazing, it feels really rewarding. I had someone say that he comes to the Fringe every year for like ten years and that my show was the best thing he’s ever seen. I think like, wow, that’s really- it feels really rewarding. But I think I know when I’ve made a difference. I don’t think I need someone to thank me. I can do a show and I know sometimes I’ve connected with the audience in a way that they’ll go away and think about what we’ve dealt with, and that’s probably the most rewarding experience. Certainly with Control and with the arrows, sometimes I do that and I know they’re going to think really hard about their dreams, and they’re going to go and try to achieve them. I don’t need them to thank me, I don’t need them to email me a photo of them stood on the top of Kilimanjaro or whatever their dream was, I know I’ve made a difference, and that’s probably the most rewarding.

Can you talk about the importance of showmanship as opposed to just having the technical skills?

Yeah it’s the most important thing. Yeah. I think I’ve seen so many magicians who have incredible skills, like magically they’re very good, but their performance is not good and I think showmanship and performance is the most important thing. Not even showmanship, you can be yourself, but confidence is it, enamoring the audience, that’s what is important. Whenever I speak to magicians that are trying to get better, young magicians starting out, everyone gives them the same advice- which is “practice, practice, practice.” My advice is don’t practice. Just don’t do it. Don’t sit at home in your mirror practicing that move again and again, just go out and do it. Just go down to the pub and show that trick to your friends, show it to your  parents, your girlfriend, your boyfriend, something like that. They’ll tell you what’s wrong, they’ll help you get better, people will go “I saw that, it’s hidden in your other hand” or they’ll go “eh that’s okay, but it wasn’t as funny as you thought it might be.” So I don’t think you should practice. Don’t get me wrong, you gotta be good, your magic has got to be good, but like, it’s probably 10-15% of what’s important. I’ve seen magicians absolutely slay audiences with a trick that costs three pounds in a magic shop, that every kid has probably bought at some point, but they’ll do it on stage in front of a thousand people and have everyone in stitches because it’s not about the trick, it’s about the performance. That’s what I think is important.

Okay, this is a question you’ve kind of answered in your show, so just answer for people who haven’t seen it- did you attend university and did you have any other career aspirations early on or was it always magic?

I don’t think my career aspirations have ever been magic. I don’t think I ever really wanted to be a magician, and I still don’t think I want to be one. That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy my job- I think it’s amazing and I love it. But I certainly never planned on becoming a magician. I’ve always wanted to work with people. I used to work as a youth worker and I really enjoyed that, I used to work as an outdoor instructor at a ropes course center where I taught kids how to climb and I really enjoyed that. Then I went to Leeds University to study journalism- I’m interested in the media- and I thought I wanted to be a reporter or a presenter or even a travel reporter or a war reporter, but I just realized that the media is very broken and I didn’t feel like I was the best person to fix it. So I didn’t feel like I could really go into that job. There’s a lot of nepotism but also there’s a lot of laziness, we call it churnalism, where journalists churn out press releases without really thinking about it. I think the 24 hour news cycle has meant the demand for news- like that we need to know now, straight away- that’s not really good. I don’t want to know when something happens, I want to know why it happens. So, yeah, we shouldn’t really know, this many people died in Iraq today, we should know, why are we at war in Iraq? What’s going on there? I feel like until the world of journalism changes there is not really a place for me in it. That and also I wasn’t even that good at it anyway.

I actually watched your TED Talk and I wanted to know if you ever considered astronomy or seriously thought about being an astronaut?

Yeah, that’s good, yeah! I love astronomy, or not even really astronomy, but I’m fascinated by space. I think space is amazing, and I think that it fits in with this idea that I feel like we’re all a collective, and like if you’re from Edinburgh you don’t like people from Glasgow and if you’re from Glasgow you don’t like people from Edinburgh but then suddenly, if we’re talking about countries, it’s like well I’m from Scotland, and we’re all from Scotland, and now we’re in part of that collective. Or we’re all from Britain, or we’re all from Europe, or we’re all from the West, and I think that’s why space is so exciting- cause we’re all from planet Earth. We’re all in this together, we’re all humans, we’re all life, like life is exciting, so I’m constantly fascinated by space and just the insane distances between things. It’s also quite depressing though, it’s quite sad, that there could be life out there but we’ll probably never find it, it’s too far away. I often wonder why, why are the distances so great and why is the speed of light so slow? It takes so long to get anywhere that by the time you’ve got there you’ve died. And that can be a bit bleak, but yeah I’m fascinated by space. It’s just a little hobby, to read about that. I don’t think I could ever become a physicist.

Do you watch other magician’s shows and what goes through your mind when you’re watching them?

I don’t watch loads of magic shows because I don’t really like them. What I want to see when I see a magic show is a point, a purpose, a message, a story. I don’t want to see like a magazine, like “here’s a trick, and then we’ll turn the page, and here’s another trick, if you didn’t like that one you might like this one.” I want it to feel like it’s really like reading a novel, like it’s going and experiencing a thing, and I don’t see a lot of magic shows that do that so I don’t go and see a lot.

But there are some that do that and that’s really exciting. I think when I’m talking about “let’s create a new genre of magic” I think there are people that could be doing that. So like, I went to see Sam Fitton’s show on the last day, and I loved it, because it was -it was by no means a perfect show, but- he had a concept and an idea, and instead of going “here’s a load of magic tricks”, he’s going “I’m waiting at a train station and I missed my train and then I went into this dream world and in my dreams I’m really magic and that’s why magic is happening.” It was charming and it was lovely and it was a piece of theatre. It might not have had a really solid message but it had a point to it and it wasn’t just a selection of tricks.

And similarly with Ava Beaux, with her show, I thought that was a really bold first show at the Fringe, because like, she’s very young, she’s new, she’s kind of nervous, and instead of going “I’ll just bring some of my favourite tricks, and I’ll just do what I’m good at”, she’s going ‘no, I’ll tell the stories of Edgar Allen Poe through magic tricks” and I’m like yeah, that’s what I’m talking about, let’s do more of that instead of just trying to show off. I don’t like magic that feels like it’s just showing off. Those were a couple of things I saw this Fringe that I really liked.

And there are a couple other people doing things like that, I just wish there were more people doing things like that. Like if I asked Ava Beaux “what is the point of your show” and she’d be like ‘I want audiences to love Edgar Allen Poe as much as I do or to feel like they’ve understood him more.” And you’d ask Sam Fitton “what is the point” and he’d be like “I want to transport them to a dream world where we’re all stuck on a train station platform together.” Whereas you ask other magicians what the point is, they just go “I just wanna make people laugh and clap and be impressed by me” and I just think that seems very needy to me, that’s not what we want. We shouldn’t strive for that. I want my audience to leave that room better people than when they came in. I think that’s important. That is the first aim, impressing them comes second to that. I wish there were more magic shows that were trying to do more than impress people.

So who are your heroes, mentors, and models in the magic world?

I’m not sure. I grew up in the Lake District and I didn’t have any other magicians around me, so I didn’t really have any magic mentors, I felt like I learnt more from folk musicians and storytellers who taught me more about how to perform on a stage. I do really like Penn & Teller. And I really like Derren Brown a lot although I don’t really like mentalism, I really like what he does because I feel like he has a point. Most of his shows whether, it’s his stage shows or his tv shows, he has a purpose or he has a message or he has something he tries to deliver, and again he does it without taking himself too seriously. He’s still very funny and casual and I like that. Last year I saw Charlie Caper and I actually got him to perform in Best of Magic. He won Sweden’s Got Talent with this really charming street performer style act. While I don’t think the magic I do is similar to what he does, I really liked his style and it inspired me to go and do more street performing.

Do you think that every magician lives in the long shadow of big name magicians like, as you mentioned, Derren Brown, or Dynamo or David Blaine?

Yeah, I mean we’ve all got to be grateful for them. I think it’s easy not to like David Blaine, especially as some of his performance style can seem like he’s taking himself too seriously, but I think it’s amazing because we have to respect that he made magic cool again. Before that if you said you were a magician it meant that you were wearing a top hat and you had a cape and you’re producing doves, or you’re doing children’s parties dressed as a clown. Whereas he came along and made magic cool. And I think one of my idols was Paul Venon, who’s like the British David Blaine. He was doing street magic at the same time, I liked him more because he didn’t take himself too seriously, he was very silly, was very funny, he focused more on the reactions, than on the magic tricks and I really liked that. I’m not a huge Dynamo fan, I’ve watched his tv shows, but again I’ve got so much respect for him because I can tell he’s making magic cool and he’s got kids into magic. Then Derren Brown I think is the God of mentalism. I’ve never seen a mentalist live and not though, “eh, you’re just like a poor man’s Derren Brown.” I feel sorry for people who do mind reading and mentalism shows because a lot of them are working really hard to to really incredible stuff but they live in the shadow of Derren Brown. I’ve never seen anyone better than him, they often seem just like a cheap imitation.

What’s the best piece of advice that you’ve received and what was the source of that advice?

One of the best pieces of advice that I’ve received was from a juggler who I used to work with doing circus and juggling shows. We were practicing something, it was one of his shows, and I was doing this joke that was a physical prop gag and I was making it really obvious and really trying to make it so clear, so everyone got the joke. He was like “I think you should make it more subtle” and I was like “I worry if I make it more subtle people won’t get it” and he just said to me “if they don’t get it they don’t deserve it.” It really was just the best piece of advice, and I feel like I’ve lived like that since. But other than that…my advice is don’t listen to other people’s advice, just go out and be yourself.

Just before we go, do you have any exciting future projects that you’re working on?

Lot’s of things! You mentioned my TED talk, I’m doing that for ITV at Emmerdale,  in about 5 days time. I haven’t done that for about two years so I need to relearn my own TED talk so I can do that again, I’m a bit nervous about that. I’ve booked in some tour dates of Control, so I’m doing it in Bristol and in the Lake District, and I’m doing it in Vienna and Bratislava in November, and I’m going to try and take it to Australia. I’d like to do it at the Adelaide Fringe Festival or possibly the Perth Festival next year. The whole time I’ll be thinking about new ideas for my new show at the Edinburgh Fringe next year. And I guess I’ll try and do a bit more street performing. So when I am away travelling I can just busk anywhere and not have to book things so far in advance. So yeah, lots of exciting things in the pipeline!



The PBH’s Best of Magic show, hosted by Chris Cook, featured a different lineup of magicians at each of its three performances.  This review is of the third and final performance, and it was a fitting finale to a Fringe full of incredible magic.

Cook was the perfect choice to host this show.  His love for magic shone through each and every one of the glowing introductions that he gave his fellow magicians.  After watching him juggle getting the crowd excited for each act, helping out in various ways throughout the performances, and performing his own magic tricks when the occasion called for it, it is easy to see why Cook has found success in the hectic realm of performing at private parties.  His unflappable cheeriness at every juncture held the show together.

The show kicked off with Aaron Calvert, a mind reading magician whose main show culminates in hypnosis.  Here, with less time, he focuses on the mind reading, using an audience member to choose numbers on a die for him to figure out.  Calvert’s commanding presence kept the audience mesmerized by his feats.

Next up was the delightfully creepy Ava Beaux.  Her Edgar Allan Poe themed show was reviewed here on one of her first performances, and she has only improved over the course of her time at the Fringe—she certainly had plenty of performances in which to do so, as she proved to be so popular that she had to run her show twice a day to satisfy her fans.  Beaux’s performance persona had consistently been one of her strong points, and even that had developed further; she was fully committed to her darkly comic character.  Beaux is reminiscent (if she would permit a more modern comparison than Poe) of Lemony Snicket, of “A Series of Unfortunate Events” fame.  Her magic tricks were appreciably neat and polished, and she kept up the flow of her act to seamlessly incorporate her illusions.

Following Beaux came a properly comic interval, featuring Tom Crosbie.  Crosbie’s main show included a variety of mathematical and Rubik’s cube based comedy.  Here he focused on the Rubik’s cubes, showing off his quick solves, and tricks like solving the Rubik’s cube while it was in midair.  While Crosbie does not do what one would consider a quintessentially magic centered act, his set was entertaining and provided an interesting change of pace.

David Narayan came next, with his own take on mentalism. He also brought along a taste of the magical history lesson that featured so prominently in his main show, The Psychic Project.  Also similarly to his main show, he kept a twist for the end—which, in this case, featured an unusually exciting wardrobe change.  Narayan’s performances at this Fringe have been heavily informed by history, but it is such characteristic personal flourishes that truly set him apart.

The show wrapped up with a final set by Dave Alnwick, another magician who has proved incredibly popular this year.  His wallet-based trick, featuring multiplying yellow fluffy balls, was a fun and playful way to end the show.  Like in all of Alnwick’s performances, his charismatic personality kept the audience engaged regardless of what he was doing on stage.  As Alnwick is also an amazingly skilled magician, the audience was captivated.

This performance of the Best of Magic show featured a wonderfully skilled lineup and stellar performances from every entertainer.  Each one of these performers are exceptional in their own right, and watching them perform on the same stage was a delight.



Chris Cook’s “Concealed” show, as per the title, is deliberately set in a cozy venue off the beaten Fringe path. Combined with the show’s low-key publicity, it sets an intimate tone for this afternoon act. Cook maintains this intentionally cultivated relaxed vibe throughout his series of street magic style tricks.

One of the reasons for this intimate show, Cook explains, is that several of his illusions are too physically small to be appreciated by the full audience in a large scale venue. Coin bending, one of the first tricks that he performs, is an obviously apt example of this. Audience members should perhaps be warned that when they lend Cook a coin they will not receive it back in working condition, but they do get a fun magical souvenir out of it, and Cook is kind enough to not use any volunteered pound coins for this particular effect. 

The small venue and audience size also allow Cook to perform an extended selection of card tricks. Exciting examples of these involve Cook producing a chocolate bar out of a brief flash of fire, and causing a deck of cards to disappear from within an audience member’s clasped hands. Cook ends with classic street magic sleight of hand, involving three cups and balls. Here his personal additions to the usual standards, and his use of the motifs of that trick to recall earlier moments in this show, make for an exciting finale.

“Concealed” is an ideal show to highlight the neatness and elegance of Cook’s magic style, some of which may get lost toward the back of a larger venue. It also allows Cook to engage more with his audience, as he performs magic surrounded by his viewers instead of up above them on a stage.

The choices that Cook makes in his different shows display his versatility as a magician, as they each have very different atmospheres and feature distinct aspects of Cook’s magical skills. For Fringe goers who are only able to see one of Cook’s shows (or perhaps even only one magic show) “Control” is the one to go to. However, for those with an extra hour to spend in Cook’s delightful company, “Concealed” is an engaging and entertaining option.


More information on Chris Cook and his performance dates can be found here



In his show “Control”, Chris Cook speaks a lot about not feeling in control of his life, and even says that he does not have complete control over what will happen in that show. But this is only partially correct- Cook quickly captivates his audience, and easily controls their full attention for the entire hour of his set.

Cook primarily performs sleight of hand tricks, and these are reliably inventive and surprising. It is a testament to his abilities that when he made a mess of a tomato that he ate onstage and took a moment to clean his hands, one almost expected he was about to reveal a new, uneaten tomato from the wreckage. His real tricks, however, are even more impressive.

Control includes many timely political references that both ingratiate Cook with the more liberal members of the audience, and help tie his tricks in to the story line of his show. Whether it’s a quick joke about mourning the death of the European Union, or Cook taking the time to read from and criticize Donald Trump’s book before using it as a prop in his next trick, the show decidedly favours the political left. American members of the audience in particular might be especially satisfied to find that Trump’s book does not emerge unscathed from its role in the show.

While the majority of Cook’s show does focus on sleight of hand, he does veer briefly into mentalism in an unexpectedly heartwarming final segment. His more serious themes are predominantly present as an undercurrent for the rest of the show, but here they take centre stage. Cook captivates the audience with his tricks and wit, and then uses that control over his viewers to instill his message of hope and motivation.

Cook’s “Control” is an excellent show that is definitely worth watching. Cook’s magic is creatively and skillfully performed. He excels both in performing big impressive tricks, and in creating small surprisingly magical moments in between the main illusions. In the end, it is his modesty that is particularly charming. Rather than using his considerable charisma solely to control his audience for the duration of the show, he gives that control back by inspiring us to exert what control we can over our own lives.


More information on Chris Cook and his performance dates can be found here