Live Comedy: Festival of the Spoken Nerd @ Forest Arts Centre, New Milton, February 1, 2013
[Sorry I’m late with this]
Festival of the Spoken Nerd (FOTSN) are made up of physics graduate and songstress Helen Arney, physics graduate and BBC presenter Steve Mould, and Australian mathematician (not mutually exclusive terms – who knew?) Matt Parker. They have slowly been gaining a larger audience through exposure on Robin Ince and Brian Cox’s Infinite Monkey Cage and the Guardian Science Podcast and this (postponed from November) show is the last stop on their first (I think) nationwide tour, and very successful it has been, by all accounts.
It’s not difficult to see why their show has been so successful either, the three performers all have a relaxed (if well-rehersed) ease with each other and the tone is of inclusion and wonder. It is clear that all three love science and want everyone else to see what it is they find so fascinating. The evening starts with a query as to how many nerds are in the audience, something which includes the reveal of the nerdiness scale (I place myself just short of the “Has memorised every XKCD comic” point), and a reassurance to those who don’t consider themselves to be a nerd that that’s OK, they’ll still enjoy the evening. In fact, I’d say that it is these who will enjoy the evening the most. Much of the incredible science being demonstrated is actually composed of things that those of us already on the way to nerdiness will always be familiar with, meaning the feelings of surprise and awe are missing. What’s left to enjoy is the banter and sparring between the three performers, but as this never feels spontaneous the fun to be had is a little muted.
What would probably have helped lift the show beyond the ‘pleasant evening out’ level would have been a sense of commonality and cohesion between the sections, but there is no over-arching theme. The shows bounces along from a demonstration of the heating properties of a parabolic dish to a song life as the sun with no more of a link than the previous performer introducing the next one. There’s a lot of science out there, and there’s a lot which is fun and fascinating (without being hugely difficult to explain) – it would be nice if FOTSN could have found a few bits and pieces that actually linked together. But hey, it’s early days for this show and, over time, I am sure they will pull together bigger and better shows. In the meantime, “Are You Sci-Curious?” is a diverting and, indeed, promising start to what is hopefully a trend of smart and science-y comedy.
6/10 (4 stars)