Nerding about town: Review of Festival of the Spoken Nerd

I have already seen some of the positive reviews floating about Twitter today about Festival of the Spoken Nerd – the wonderful show performed by Helen Arney, Steve Mould and Matt Parker but we’ll add our two pence as well.  We had a short interview with the three nerds a few weeks ago on the Pod Delusion to talk about the show if you are interested here.

Even though your intrepid editor and myself are still feeling quite under the weather, we gathered what strength we had and figured if we died laughing, it would be the best way to go.

We hadn’t seen any of the previous FOSTN shows down at the New Red Lion Theatre so we didn’ t know entirely what to expect – though having seen both Helen Arney and Matt Parker perform, we knew that we would be in for some clever and entertaining comedy.   We were not disappointed.

There is something genuinely lovely about being in an audience who know must be nerdy by the fact they are going to a comedy celebration of nerdiness.  The three on stage are also just such nice people that it does feel like a festive atmosphere.  As well, for us, the Bloomsbury Theatre is the home of Robin Ince’s 9 Lessons and Carols so it’s a comfortable and familiar venue.

There was a lot packed into the show and most of it was entirely new material for us  – which is rare as we generally see a lot of the science/comedy scene in London.   Even the bits that we had seen before like Andrea Sella (@SellaTheChemist) setting stuff on fire with bright blue lights and recognizable ‘barks’ will never get old.  Andrea was one of the special guests alongside Kent Valentine (@KentValentine) who had an excellent, just ridiculous story about his 15 year old self and a friend making napalm while his mother was out.   I don’t know if the routine is floating about  YouTube or not but I would encourage seeing him based on that bit alone.  Who knows, maybe he’ll show up at some of the other FOSTN big shows (more on that later) as well.

One of the most intriguing bits of the show, which I am fascinated by, were the solids of constant width.  3D objects that have the same width no matter which way they face/lie.  To prove this, Steve Mould had many of these wonderful shapes made and then proceeded to try and float across the stage on them.  It was an excellent demonstration of mathematical concepts and comedy (replete with dressing up as his tiny lego man counterpart for the previous section demonstrating shapes of constant width to the audience).   This sketch really sums up for me the true brilliance of the show: on one hand I was absolutely fascinated by this abstract concept and Steve’s obsession with the shapes of constant width but he then makes it hilarious. I am now going to remember that concept for a very long time (I just wish there was a nerdy enough pub quiz for it to be used in!)  In true nerdy fashion, Steve and Matt are going to have many of the shapes of constant width made where you will be able to purchase one – they’ll at least have one sale as I am going to get one when available.

The three seem to work effortlessly at banter and performing together on stage.  Helen Arney’s songs are always amusing (Keep your trousers on Archimedes was probably my favourite); Matt Parker can make any graph interesting; and Steve Mould’s experiments are brilliant.   The only thing that tended to break up the flow (for me) was that they asked the audience if they had any questions after the various sketches.  I imagine it would work in a smaller venue but for the larger one, it slowed down the pace of the show a bit.  Nonetheless, some of the questions and answers given were equally amusing as the sketches.

Overall, it was a wonderfully indulgent night of geekery.   If anyone has made a new  years resolution about getting out to see more shows, there are two more Festival of the Spoken Nerd MASSSIVE shows coming up in the next several months.  There is a second date at the Bloomsbury Theatre on the 22nd of May but sooner than that and also MORE MASSIVE is the Theatre Royal Haymarket gig  next month on February 2nd.  Support nerd comedy goodness so we can have more!  What can be better than filling the theatres and venues with smart, sophisticated, clever comedy that tickles every nerdy bone in your body?

Liz Lutgendorff, Deputy Editor

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