The lights are dim. There is a silent in the room. And then, you can hear it, the sound of a laser harp. That is how you know that a Robin Ince show has just started.
Last night, the final series of Christmas performances of Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People opened at Bloomsbury Theatre, where Ince has been performing this variety/science/comedy show since 2008. And there is only one thing that Ince wants to prove to us: scientists are fun. Yes, they are indeed.
As if it was a comedy club, Ince limited himself to act as a host to all of his guests. But not without making a few jokes about Brian Cox’s voice or Brian Blessed and his powerful personality: “Even water fears Brian Blessed”. And of course, about the much hyped One Direction. “If you have wondered why aliens haven’t visited us, it’s because we send these singles into space”.
After an oratory during which he talked about how the 21st century is the best time for science, how Londoners only have two moods – “you are either stressed or bored” – or the strange need nowadays of doing everything to the limit – “I don’t have to have fun caps lock, I can have fun lower case” – he gave way to his list of guests for the night.
After the first surprise guest, the deadpan, always majestic Phil Jupitus, most of the comedians who set foot onstage shared their thoughts through song, with a special mention to the actual band, Steve Pretty’s Origin of the Pieces, that got all of its members topless by the end of their bit.
But the best moments belong to George Egg and Alex Horne. Egg gave the audience a lesson on how to cook proper food with hotel utensils, including irons and coat hangers, while Horne just showed what an impressive stand-up comedian he is – “I hate stand-up comedy, so welcome to my bit!”
There was a lot of science, a lot of maths – more than I have processed in ten years -, but there was also something to say about Christmas, the main theme behind the main theme.
Things went from “if only Christians are allowed to call it Christmas, then only Vikings are allowed to call it Wednesday”, all the way to recriminating that “you guys leave out drugs for Santa”.
Of course, Ince had some moments between guests to show his comedy skills. More like small bits to teach science and give the audience life lessons: “If you have friends who will judge you on a cake, change your fucking friends”.
After finishing with a not very notable performance by Emperor Yes, Robin Ince said goodbye for the day. The first night of his final Christmas act. And although the show lasted for more than three hours, feeling too long at some points, one still leaves the theatre wishing Ince had been our science teacher. We would have paid much more attention.
Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People runs until December 22th at the Bloomsbury Theatre.
- This week’s new live comedy (theguardian.com)