Fringe Comedy Reviews: Scientific Wonders

The Wonderful World of Lieven Scheire and Festival of the Spoken Nerd: learn more about science via the world of comedy at the Edinburgh Fringe

Feature by Jenni Ajderian | 18 Aug 2015

When it comes to communicating complex scientific theories to a wide audience, humour has an essential part to play in making everything more palatable, and crucially making it okay to be confused and amazed. Such is the feeling when we step into The Wonderful World of Lieven Scheire [★★★☆☆]: a place where Einstein's theory of special relativity is explained with practiced ease, and more than a few asides to acknowledge the fact that it's a difficult topic to wrap your mind around. Since the lecture is padded with comedy, this is a very brief introduction to the topic, and one which should be accessible even to those who are uncertain about Heinsenberg or unsure of Schrodinger. Scheire allows us a few gags aimed directly at the scientific community too, and though these feel a little tired at times, they still hit home. The humour itself feels wedged in, more like a favoured science teacher stepping back from fumbling for pens to tell a joke he heard at the weekend, but this warm and intelligent character is great for the purposes of the show.

After the theoretical physics lecture we're back into more experimental, flashy science with the Festival of the Spoken Nerd: Just for Graphs [★★★★☆]. A more balanced amount of comedy and nerdism, the Spoken Nerds again allow us time to be amazed, with each climax to an experiment feeling like that of a magic trick. An easy rivalry between the three scientists creates a great dynamic on-stage, as we see the dry, long-suffering maths teacher Matt Parker vying up against the bubbly, hands-on approach of Steve Mould, and Helen Arney, the best ukulele-playing physicist on this Fringe or – to extrapolate from the given data – any other hypothetical Fringes. Stepping away from the Bunsen burners, we even dissolve into laughter when looking at the Spoken Nerds' collection of graphs, charts and plots which make up the set piece for the show, as we see the amazing things that can be done with numbers and well-labelled axes, then giggle along at what our hosts have chosen to do with them. This is a very slick and professional show, complete with theme music and more props than you can wave a metre rule at: Science Communication taken to a new extreme, plus flashy tech work, multiplied by fire.

The Wonderful World of Lieven Scheire, Gilded Balloon, until 31 Aug (various dates), 3pm, £9.50-10.50

Festival of the Spoken Nerd: Just for Graphs, Assembly George Square Studios, until 30 Aug, 6:30pm, £10-12