Illusionist will prove nothing’s Impossible at blockbuster Dubai magic show

Blockbuster magic show Impossible arrives at Dubai Opera direct from London's West End, where it was billed the city's “most dangerous” show mixing stunts, illusions, technological tricks and old-fashioned sword-slicing silliness.

Mind reader Chris Cox, one of the stars of the magic show, Impossible, which is at Dubai Opera this week. Helen Maybanks
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Do you think it is possible to read someone’s mind? No? Good, because neither does Chris Cox – and he’s a professional mind-reader.

A hit on TV in the United ­Kingdom, where he unlocked the thoughts of celebrities ­including Ricky Gervais, Jonathan Ross, Richard Branson and Simon Cowell – Cox is one of the many diverse delights who will tread the boards at Dubai Opera this week as part of blockbuster magic show, Impossible.

It arrives direct from London’s West End, where it was billed as the city’s “most dangerous” show, and promises a mix of stunts, illusions, technological tricks and good old-fashioned sword-slicing silliness from a diverse cast of six ­specialist daredevils, conjurors and ­illusionists.

However, with his mix of stand-up comedy and psychological trickery, 30-year-old mind-reader Cox threatens to steal the spotlight.

You are a mind reader who does not read minds – how does that work?

a I’m just a bloke, really, who is somehow getting away with it. I’m of the opinion that no one can read minds – my performance comes from the grey area between not being able to read your mind, but being able to make you think I can read your mind. So, I’ll use magic, psychology, body language – as well as my devilish good looks, obviously – all to make you think I know what you’re thinking.

If you are just pretending, what happens when you guess wrong?

Yeah, that’s the tightrope I walk. I’ve got things that I will do if it goes wrong, so in theory you’ll never know. But if I can’t get the right connection with someone, then there’s nothing I can do about it – I just look like an idiot.

This is an interesting career path. How did you choose it?

It sort of chose me. I got a letter when I was 12 delivered by an owl, and then I did six years at Hogwarts. And then obviously a bit of trouble with Voldemort ...

I see what you did there.

Really, I got a magic kit when I was six, loved magic. Then I started learning psychology at school, and realised that if I mixed the two it would look like more than magic. I did the Edinburgh Festival, using most of my student loan, and have just been doing it ever since.

Does this mean anyone can learn to read minds?

To some extent, yes. I think there is some innate ability there – I have a very good working memory and very quick processing skills, so during the show my mind is working at 1,000 miles an hour – having to decipher and deduce and ­second-guess at every ­opportunity. In essence it’s probably learnable – but it’s probably much better to spend your time on something more worthwhile.

This might be why you are introduced as “The Geek” on the BBC’s Killer Magic show.

Obviously I'm furious about it, I'm totally playing against type really ... no, it's pretty much me. It's a badge I wear with honour. Doctor Who, Benedict Cumberbatch, Sherlock – the "geek chic" thing has finally come around, which means the person I've been for years is now celebrated rather than laughed at. So in Impossible, you've got Jonathan Goodwin, this amazing stunt performer, setting himself on fire and lying on beds of nails – and then little me who can ­barely pick up a microphone without ­hurting himself.

Whose mind was the hardest to unlock?

The hardest minds are those who are overly helpful – I want people to challenge me a bit, because then you can predict how they will challenge you. I’ve done quite a lot of mind ­reading with Ricky Gervais – he’s a wonderful human being, and hilariously funny – and the first time, he was nodding along ­trying to help me, and it completely threw me. He was just being too helpful.

So One Direction’s Liam Payne was a little easier?

Yes, he had quite an open mind – which doesn’t surprise people.

The whole idea of a magic show sounds kind of old-­fashioned.

Yeah, and it kind of is. When we brought Impossible to the West End, it was the first magic show for years – and it sort reinvented magic. Magic is cool again. You've got David Blaine, ­Dynamo, Derren Brown, Criss Angel – all these massive ­magicians people love on TV – but magic is at its best when it's live in front of you. When you can't say "it's camera tricks" or "it's set up" – you see it with your own eyes – miracles happen, and your entire belief system crashes around you.

• Impossible is at Dubai Opera at 8pm from tonight until Friday, plus matinees at 3pm on Thursday and Friday. Ticket prices start at Dh250 from