Enquiring minds can have their fix of scientific musings and comedy at once in these sceptical shows from two outsiders
Immigration, that buzzword of so many headlines, is hard enough when you speak the language. Eric Lampaert, Frenchman in disguise, boasts American, UK and tricolore citizenship, and is officially known to the US immigration office as an Alien of Extraordinary Ability [★★★★]. That ability is stand-up, and in this hour he more than proves his status as a really impressive comic with a unique perspective on the planet.
Lampaert eases us in with material on cultural differences before swiftly sliding into surrealism while never losing his thread. He seems to trust us completely with details of his experiences of xenophobia, visa applications and depression, but the mood never drops below a set level of welcoming cheekiness.
We see how mental health issues can be detrimental to one’s visa application as well as one’s life, and all the ridiculous questions asked of those wanting to move from one part of our pale blue dot to another. With a tight use of multimedia we see sketches in video form and extra added photos that enhance the show without distracting us from Lampaert as the main event. This is a slick and heartfelt hour of comedy from a confident and amiable performer.
When it comes to space exploration, half of the human race has largely been refused access to the rest of the galaxy, so much so that until recently there had been more dogs in space than women. In a quest to examine this odd situation and to get the attention of Professor Brian Cox, Samantha Baines gives us 1 Woman, a Dwarf Planet and 2 Cox [★★★].
In her hour of stand-up, Baines skims through her own path away from science and towards the arts, and reels off anecdote after anecdote about other women encouraged to do the same. In doing so, we never get to see the big picture, looking instead at what some individuals have said to or about other individuals.
It is, however, nice to hear the personal side of Baines’ own battles against sexism in comedy, and we hear a lot about her grandmother, who provides the voice of another generation to give perspective. Baines is very involved with her audience, and this brings us in and makes us feel part of the show, particularly in her closing message of acceptance. We’re reminded again and again that women aren’t another species, and that we’re a lot more capable of flying a spaceship than the average poodle.
Eric Lampaert: Alien of Extraordinary Ability, Laughing Horse @ City Cafe, 4-28 Aug (not 15), 5.30pm, Free
Samantha Baines: 1 Woman, a Dwarf Planet and 2 Cox, Pleasance Courtyard (This), 3-29 Aug (not 6), 3.30pm, £6-10