Putting the Rabbit in the Hat

Brian Cox

Rating: 6 out of 10.

Putting the Rabbit in the Hat starts as a compelling memoir with a really interesting origin tale but descends into open criticism of other actors.

An interesting read if you are Scottish or a Cox fan, with some interesting theatre tales but not a must-read by any stretch.

I first starting reading this book as the Hardcover edition before swapping to the Audible version read by Brian Cox himself.

Hailing from Dundee myself, along with my family, I grew up on the housing estate where Cox’s sister still lives (Linlathen) and my auntie is good friends with her.

So, on a recent trip back to my birth city I put on the Audible version and listened along with my Dad who was travelling with me. He smiled ruefully at lots of references including street names, bakeries, pubs and pie places. For him, the audiobook was a time capsule.

And so the entire first half of the book, from Cox upbringing to his entry to the Dundee Rep theatre company and onto his acceptance to LAMDA was a thrilling account. I found myself enjoying his caustic style more and more as the story evolved.

He was naturally very self-effacing about his early career and but the book takes on a different pall when he bitterly discusses the money and payment he would receive for his acting. At several points the book takes jabs, or veiled barbs, at other actors Cox feels are less deserving of their fame and fortune.

This attitude manifests itself most sharply when he accuses Anthony Hopkins of stealing his Hannibal Lecter performance directly from Cox, going so far as to say the part, by rights should have been his, and Sir Anthony owes him a debt of gratitude for laying the groundwork.

It is in this vein that the book continues, occasionally pausing briefly to list the people that have died from alchohol and drug abuse (the list is long and distinguished) which serves as a welcome cautionary tale.

However, it brings down the spirit of the text hugely since the laughs are few and far between, instead we lurch from critiques of various actors to lamentations of poor pay to the early demise of friends and colleagues. When the autobiography does lift it is normally to tell us that Cox has set some hitherto unknown / unverifiable record such as a box office sale in Moscow etc.

Cox does call out a significant number of his thespian colleagues as being wonderfully talented but few of them are truly households names, the more famous you are, the more it seems to rankle the disgruntled author.

As a testament to a bygone era from my home town, the first half of the book was fantastic and it will hold a special place in my memory for sharing it with my father on a Dundee road trip.

But he, like I, found it quite laborious to finish. I am glad I read it, I took only a few notes from it and I wouldn’t re-read.

Starts excellent and descends into a laborious task as it goes on. 6/10.