Bright Club at the 2010 Brghton Fringe

Note: This review is from 2010

Review by Steve Bennett

Thanks almost entirely to Robin Ince, comedy-science hybrid shows are no longer a novelty; although having a fancy-pants aquarium as the venue must be a first. The stage for this show at Brighton’s Sea Life Centre was a platform floating over a tank full of giant turtles, stingrays and sharks. It’s what a comedy club would be like if run by a Bond villain.

Host Rufus Hound had some fun with the setting, of course, before introducing the rest of this ‘science cabaret’. He’s a regular at the Bright Club nights in London; the title being not a contraction of the host city’s name, but a pun based on the intelligence of the turns.

The fusing of the entertainment with the enlightenment was perhaps less smooth than other nights of this ilk; with the comedy not always sitting comfortably with the pseudo-academic segments that could have come out of a Royal Institution Christmas Lecture.

First up on the education front was Tom Morgan, billed as a ‘fish psychologist’, though it’s a term he had never come across before. His mission was to act as a spin doctor for sharks, softening their scary image while smearing the photogenic dolphins, exposing them as virulent rapists. A very nervous speaker, he was clearly not used to addressing an audience, although the material was interesting.

Mechanical engineer Tristan Smith’s message was about the polluting atmosphere of the shipping industry, and although the problem is clearly huge, making it relevant to us proved more of a struggle, and he, too, wasn’t a natural public speaker.

The soothing calypso of Strawberry and Cream – aka the singing/ukulele playing duo of Catharine Rogers and Charlie Pyne, plus Neil Davey on drums – singing Under The Sea brought the first half to an elegant close, heralding an interval in which the audience could take a stroll round the exhibits.

Hound opened the second half with an extended routine allegedly about evolution, but in actual fact dedicated to his heartfelt message to the women in the room to give more blow jobs. ‘I am not proud of this material,’ he asserted unconvincingly, although probably refelcting the audience’s expectations of something a little more erudite. Hound, who has picked up a thing or two from Stewart Lee when it comes to delivery, could perhaps have chosen something a little more on-message for this section.

The next speaker, Richard Robinson, certainly looked a little uncomfortable through this below-the-belt; though his own talk had plenty of wit of its own. Through a slightly forced application of Sod’s Law, he shone light on the origins of life on earth, explaining how proteins can easily be formed in the lab, and how they evolve into Shakespeare, and the rest of us, without an infinite number of monkeys. One in the eye for the creatonists, of whom there were surely none in the audience.

In the best tradition of saving the best to last, zoologist Mark Carnall revealed an incomplete A-Z of why he hates the sea, citing reasons as diverse as the defence mechanisms of sea cucumbers to blue whale jism. And yes, the scientist did use the technical word jism – and indeed ‘spaffing’ – in his hugely entertaining talk about the true terrors of the deep. Anyone who adheres to WC Fields’ maxim that he never drank water because of the ‘disgusting things fish do in it’ will find a lot more evidence to support that stance here.

With another seductively tuneful number from Strawberries and Cream to take us into the night, the audience filed out, with a headful of new facts. As a comedy show, Bright Club was a mixed catch, but as a fun introduction to marine biology, the job was done.

Review date: 15 May 2010
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Brighton Sea Life Centre

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