John-Paul Stephenson

Review: Festival of the Spoken Nerd, Just for Graphs, Northern Stage

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festivalofspokennerdPhoto: Kitty Walker

With fire, song, and mathematics, the Festival of the Spoken Nerd present their own brand of pornography for geeks.

An extended version of their Just For Graphs show that was a huge hit at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe sees maths and physics professional nerds Helen Arney, Steve Mould, and Matt Parker explain when a Venn diagram isn’t a Venn diagram, how “The Final Countdown” can literally penetrate you, and what happens when there are two simultaneous Mexican Waves.

The show is like a reverend version of the Sky show Brianiacs, whereby the team’s desire to play with fire is genuinely exceeded by their yearning to explain the science and maths to anyone who happens to be in earshot. And they do so with so much passion that even I understood some of it, although I suspect that there was some osmosis going on from the inordinately clever people in the room.

There are lots of nice audience interaction, and, without giving anything away, I offer two pieces of advice. Firstly, before you enter the venue, download a free app for your phone which allows you to send faxes (there are a few on iOS and Android) so that you don’t have to rely on a frail 3G signal or overstretched wi-fi inside the auditorium.

Secondly, try to get your paws on the calculator that is passed around during the interval – what it does is practically orgasmic.

The laugh-a-minute show (a statistic they could prove with relevant diagrams) is another entry in the list of the comedy-knowledge-geekery shows, a genre perhaps ignited by QI, followed by the No Such Thing As A Fish and James O’Brien’s Mystery Hour podcasts.

If science had been this much fun at school, most of us may have actually learnt something.

Festival of the Spoken Nerd: Just for Graphs is currently touring the UK. For dates and tickets, see their website.