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Stortford magician Martin Cox's Rhodes show tells his life story through tricks

Martin Cox
Martin Cox

Martin Cox, an illusionist who has been running his monthly comedy magic shows in Bishop's Stortford for nearly five years, is staging a spellbinding autobiographical show at Rhodes Arts Complex on Friday (Sept 7).

“It’s a journey through my life in magic,” explained Martin. “Each trick has a meaning to my life. The show itself is a documentary of my life – there’s a story running through it.”

Martin has named his show A Fistful of Magic as an homage to his former line of work. He worked as a bouncer – or “door supervisor” – for two years around east London clubs and concert venues.

“I used to be known as the hard man of magic, but I’ve dropped that handle now,” he said. “People were scared of it.”

Martin moved to Bishop’s Stortford in 1995, just after he married his wife Sue. The couple have lived in their home in Urban Road, off Dunmow Road, ever since, and share it with their 17-year-old son Robert and 21-year-old daughter Samantha.

He is a member of The Inner Magic Circle, a select group of 300 esteemed magicians. The Circle, now based at Euston in London, was founded in 1905 and was male-only until 1991.

The father of two began his career in magic three decades ago. He was 27 and employed as a youth worker near Hertford. He took his group of teenagers on a juggling course and while he was there he was invited to a magic convention.

At that stage in his life, Martin knew absolutely nothing about magic, illusion or misdirection, so he decided to read up on it. In his research, he stumbled across a video tape which taught gambling cheats and card manipulations, and he was hooked.

When Martin went to the convention a short while later, he met Simon Lovell, a Mancunian comedy magician and self-marketed con-man who specialises in close-up tricks. “We talked for most of the convention. We had the same sense of humour,” explained Martin.

Simon encouraged Martin to keep practising card tricks and the cheats he had learned from the video. “I was like a duck to water, I just had green fingers for it,” he said. “My skill level was really high.

“I started at the difficult end and worked backwards. I just practised it and got very good at it in a short space of time.”

Over his 30 years in magic, the famed Magic Circle is not the only prestigious group that Martin has become a part of.

He was asked to join the New York-based Fechter’s Finger Flicking Frolic in 2004 – an invite-only magic convention limited to the world’s top 250 close-up magic performers.

“The first time you go, you have to perform,” said Martin. “I invented a trick and at the end of my routine I did the trick that I invented.

“It’s a bit scary. It’s the top guys that go there, but they like the style that I do and the way I am.”

Martin has been back to Fechter’s most years since his first appearance there and thoroughly enjoys his annual visit to the States. “We meet, discuss magic, perform for each other and share ideas,” he said.

By attending Fechter’s conventions and Magic Circle, Martin has rubbed shoulders with some highly-respected names in magic, and he has invited many of them along to Stortford to perform at the monthly Half Moon Magicians comedy show that he hosts.

The club began in the back room at the Half Moon on North Street but has since moved to Bishop’s Stortford Football Club. Martin acts as compere for the shows, and each month two guest magicians perform their routines.

* Martin’s Rhodes show, A Fistful of Magic, will take place on Friday, September 7. Tickets cost £12 for adults and £10 for concessions. Both shows begin at 8pm.

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