Theatre Review | Festival of the Spoken Nerd: You Can’t Polish a Nerd – Nuffield Southampton Theatres

I don’t have much luck with Chemistry. No, not the romantic kind (although….that too). I mean the white-lab-coat, bunsen-burner kind of Chemistry. Or Biology. Or Physics….

I struggle to count; fractions and stats send a chill down my spine, and the only lab you’ll see me near is a chocolate one.

So when I went along to a show focused on science and maths, you could say that I was very much out of my depth.

I walked into the theatre, sat down, and looked around. I appeared to be to be one of a very tiny number of non-scientists in the room.

Would I get the jokes and puns and references? There was only one way to find out. I had to make like a proton, and stay positive!

(Sorry.)

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I am a regular theatre-goer (albeit not as regular as I would like!) and although I do like to try new things in culture, I still very much stick to my comfort zone: Drama, comedy, traditional performances, classic scripts and artists I know and love already.

So when I agreed to accompany my lab-dwelling friend to Festival of the Spoken Nerd: You Can’t Polish a Nerd at Nuffield Southampton Theatres a couple of weeks ago, I was well and truly out of that comfort zone. Despite having taken AS Level Physics (and being incredibly proud of my C grade!) my scientific knowledge stops at photosynthesis, magnets and simple electrical circuits.

So who are the nerds in question? Helen Arney, Steve Mould and Matt Parker; a singing physicist, an on-screen scientist and a mathematic fanatic who bring science and nerd-dom to life on stage.

With catchy songs, creative experiments and witty observations, the trio treated us to an evening of knowledge. It was playful, engaging and incredibly clever.

Speaking as a non-scientist, I was really impressed with how much I was able to enjoy and understand! I found myself laughing and learning at the same time, and as someone who enjoys discovering new things, this was the perfect night for me.

I now know how to calculate Pi using meat pies (I know, right?!), what a gravitational wave looks like, what a ‘solid of constant width’ is, and what happens to soap when you put it in a microwave (the latter was awesome, and if you’re curious, it’s this).

There were the occasional comments and concepts that went way over my head; some of the mathematical equations and more complicated jokes were a hit with the professional Profs in the audience, but left me feeling a bit baffled. These moments didn’t last long, though, and I soon got back on track.

The atmosphere was brilliant; there’s nothing like an audience who are truly enjoying a show, and with a full house and brilliant engagement, the air was full of laughter and concentration. Each joke got a reaction like potassium in water.

(I did warn you my scientific knowledge was limited!)

I think the one thing I’d like you to take from this review is, even if you’re not a chemist, a biologist, a physicist or a mathematician, you will still enjoy this show. Sure, you won’t understand all of it, and some jokes may be a bit baffling. But you will learn a lot, and the on-stage experiments will fascinate you.

The songs are quirky, the focus is varied, and there is something of the ‘Big Bang Theory’ about it. They’re bringing science to life and into the mainstream, which I personally think is marvellous.

I will be the first to admit I am a bit of a nerd, although not of the science kind – and the fun that these guys have from truly embracing their nerdy love of all things science and maths-based is brilliantly infectious – so much so, their jokes should go viral! (Sorry. Again.)

What I mean to say is, don’t be afraid of stepping out of your cultural comfort zone once in a while; you might just surprise yourself, and learn something new along the way.

If you’re a scientist, mathematician or all-round Nerd, you’ll love this show.

If you’re not? You’ll love it too (once you understand the punchline!)

Festival of the Spoken Nerd are currently touring; find out where they’re headed next.

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