The puppets were of podcast Infinite Monkey Cage alumnus Tim Minchin, Robin Ince and Dr. Brian Cox. It was funny and a great way to introduce the general concept of the show to the audience. The facial expression of Dr Brian Cox’s puppet while looking at supernovas making me laugh so much I almost lost my beverage. The puppets then introduce our host for the evening and the real Robin Ince strides energetically onto the stage.
It is clear immediately that Ince is a master of MC-ing. He jokes about Wellington, making himself familiar to us through shared experiences of our beloved giant squid. I notice as he does this that he walks around a lot, as if his self-confessed curious nature needs to explore every inch of the stage. His bouncing nature infectious as he excitedly tells us of his pedestrian forays into understanding science. Having many friends of a scientific background, I empathise with him. We may not know exactly what the Scientific Method is, but we know there is one.
My understanding of Scientific Method becomes more educated as I watch the show,with my own enthusiasm for science increasing as each scientist takes part. I oohed over the predictions of bacterial infection deaths from Dr. Sioxsie Wiles. Professor Lucie Green made me exclaim and coo over how brilliant our sun is. Matt Parker stole my pun-loving heart by creatingwith a steak and cheese pie. All this just in the show’s first half! All three were clear and concise in their speeches, providing information that was accessible to all of us. They were lively, passionate, and succeeded in making me even more interested in our universe without being overwhelmed with jargon.
The first half also saw me squeeing over the sight and deliciously-accented sound of Josie Long. Her performance consists of a wonderfully whimsical set that attempts to prove the existence of ghosts by the use of our very own Watties’ Spaghetti in its can. The comedy continues with Billy T Award nominee Matt Stellingwerf. His set melded together homeopathy, serial killers and the struggles of being in the humanities science of criminology. The blend of science and comedy made the Opera House ring with laughter. It was at this time I also heard my favourite comment of the evening, which was a child behind me giggle and say, “I don’t really get it, but he’s very funny, isn’t he?” And he is right. Stellingwerf does have an innate ability for the hilarious even if you don’t understand every little intricacy of his words.
Our musical act for the first half was Nation, a self-described soul/pop/funk band based in Wellington. Their music was a great choice for the show; their catchy tunes were stuck in my head for the whole intermission. My first time watching Nation, I was blown away by the vocals of lead singer Miharo Gregory, the high notes he could reach bringing tingly goosebumps to my skin I will definitely be looking out for this band in the future.
Intermission came and I wandered into the foyer where interesting conversation exploded in tid-bits through the air like a sunspot giving off gaseous goodness. We were all buzzing from the combination of learning and a large dosage of dopamine from the laughing and music. I have not heard such a large concentration of the word ‘fascinating’ in all my life and the enthusiasm was infectious.
The second half was lead by Robin Ince hosting a Q&A session from questions asked by the audience during the break. The scientists answered questions ranging from serious and quantitative to the utterly ridiculous, and their enjoyment kept the momentum of the second half going strong.
Our scientists for this second half were: Professor Shaun Hendy, who made us chortle while we learned about how Australians are similar to rocks; Dr. Helen Czerski, who very vibrantly caused a wide-eyed awe in me with her explanation of the science of bubbles; and Dr. Michelle Dickinson, who taught us how to survive disaster by breaking things. Again, the science was inspiring, informative and mind-blowing. Did you know penguins trap bubbles in their feathers and release them to propel themselves more quickly to the surface? Neither did I until tonight. So cool.
Our second-half comedy act is another Billy T Award nominee, the Wellington-based James Nokise. Nokise used another humanitarian science, political science, as his baseline. I have been a fan of Nokise’s work for a while now and yet again, he delivered his set with expert timing and a social awareness that makes you uncomfortably upfront of exactly what you are laughing at. In ways that could be described as Chappellian, he confronts me with the misuses of government spending and the mainland New Zealand dismissive attitude towards the cultures and needs of our Pacific Island dominions. Wrapping them so cleverly in rosettes of wit that the mirth is expelled out of me out of compulsion before I am able to think, “Wait, what did I just laugh at?” The amalgamation of hilarity and cause of thought perfectly matching of tone of the evening.
The final act comes in the form of an acoustic set from the legendary Jon Toogood of Shihad fame. His performance still as entrancing everytime I see him perform, Toogood chose some excellent songs to perform. Again the motif of entertainment and enlightenment coming together in the form Bob Dylan’s Masters of War, Pacifier’s Run and from Shihad’s latest album FVEY a song titled, Think You’re So Free.
Toogood gave us a fantastic ending to the show and I left the theatre feeling mellow but ready to discuss what I had been taught over a couple of wines. Cosmic Shambles LIVE! is a fun experiment in how much I can absorb in a two hour period, and how much Robin Ince can make me laugh without straining a muscle.
Cosmic Shambles LIVE! Has another show in Christchurch on Monday 10th of April. You can find tickets at www.ticketek.co.nz