Review: Festival of the Spoken Nerd @ Warwick Arts Centre, 6th October 2017

Festival of the Spoken Nerd
Festival of the Spoken Nerd. Image: Idil Sukan

Back with a new show, titled You Can’t Polish a Nerd, the science-comedy crossover three-piece Festival of the Spoken Nerd once again brought their love of nerd-dom to the stage, proving laughs and lab coats can go together.

Comprising Helen Arney, Steve Mould and Matt Parker, the trio have very defined roles which they each brought to the show, though some of the most enjoyable moments stemmed from faux-competitiveness and some gentle ribbing after mistakes.

‘Gentle’ is an appropriate way to describe the show, as they were entertaining but often in a low-energy mode, even when Mould’s vaguely domestic experiments provided more visual pizzazz. Allied with Arney’s quirky songs and Parker’s maths-based routines (a combination of wry jokes and a lecture), each segment was complementary to the whole, with each member getting their chances to shine, with contributions (and subtle undermining for comic effect) from the others.

Performing in a room far bigger than would be ideal for their type of show, seemed to blunt the overall impact somewhat; a show that fed off the energy and enthusiasm of the audience, as well as that of the performers themselves, being limited by the size of the space. At times this was especially apparent, but the group were able to override this to create a warm, charming and funny spectacle.

A particular highlight was Parker outlining why the symbol used on road signs to indicate a football stadium (a football made only from hexagons) is geometrically incorrect – a mistake so heinous, he believes, that he’s created a petition about it (which has over 17,000 signatures at the time of writing).

While not exactly a joke in itself – though his faux-curmudgeonly stance on the subject is superbly comic – this nevertheless illustrates one of the great strengths which the trio harnessed on stage, namely a way to connect geekdom and nerdy concerns to mainstream audiences. Long may they continue.


Author: whoslaughingnowblog

My name is Simon Harper. I'm a freelance journalist specialising in writing about music and comedy. My work has been published by the Birmingham Post, Arena, Bearded, the BBC and Channel 4, among others. I have also written for BBC Radio 4 Extra's Newsjack, as well as co-writing and -hosting the Comedy Fix podcast. I've been writing about comedy in Coventry, Birmingham and the West Midlands as Who's Laughing Now? since 2008. Here you'll find reviews, previews, interviews and other stuff about live comedy in the area.

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