Chris Addison: Atomicity

Note: This review is from 2005

Review by Steve Bennett

Edinburgh’s favourite ponce is back with another erudite theme: an hour-long show about the Periodic Table of the elements.

Atomicity is, however, no arid GCSE chemistry lesson. ‘It’s about how the human race copes with the universe,’ he asserts, which doesn’t exactly exclude a lot.

Thus what might seem like an obscure, over-intellectual theme actually allows Addison to leap nimbly between anything that takes his fancy, whether it’s the British battleship-naming convention, dinosaurs playing hide and seek or Britain’s cool response to the London bombs.

Addison’s gift is to be able to format all these disparate ideas into one convincing theme, and one that will most appeal to middle-class people like him who are smugly proud of their education. Addison is, if you’ll excuse the screamingly obvious pun, in his element.

Watching his show is like channel-surfing through the section of the satellite menu where all the documentary shows live. You get snippets of interesting information before the mind starts straying into tangents. But like the Periodic Table, he orders and makes some sense of all this.

Addison talks remarkably quickly – although his crisp received pronunciation means nothing’s ever garbled – which means he can  pack a lot more into his show than most. Sometimes surreal, sometimes clever, sometimes passionate and insightful; there really is something here for everyone.

Yet within the impressively wide scope of the show, the material always  remains informative – not in an intellectually showy way. It’s accessible without dumbing down; and with a point as well as a joke.

He’s quite intolerant of stupidity, against which he rails with corrosive vigour, but he lets his passions get away with him in a positive way, too, right up to the now-obligatory rousing crescendo with which he brings his show to its stirring finish.

Addison has again cemented his reputation as a copper-bottomed festival favourite, well deserving his sell-out status.

Review date: 1 Jan 2005
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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