‘The Importance of Being Interested’ (The Stand: 10 Nov ’13)

” Thereafter Ince takes his time, circles his subject(s), and loves the fact that when you engage him you get a ‘Rent-a-Gob’ actor-comedian who does intersecting illustrated monologues way before brevity”

Editorial Rating: Nae Bad

‘And speaking of the science of Life, have you got the cucumber sandwiches cut for Lady Bracknell?’

Robin Ince’s stand-up promotion of scientific understanding has serious pedigree now. There was his 2008 Fringe show Things I Like About Carl Sagan And Others, the 2009 Night of a Billion Stars, last year’s Happiness Through Science tour, and now this one, The Importance of Being Interested, which does exactly what it says on the tin. Boldly search for ‘Pedigree Chum’ and top of the Google tree comes ‘Pedigree Brighter Futures’, which is where Ince would land us.

Initial lift comes from an explosive tribute to Brian Blessed which actually has enough energy to fuel the whole show. Thereafter Ince takes his time, circles his subject(s), and loves the fact that when you engage him you get a ‘Rent-a-Gob’ actor-comedian who does intersecting illustrated monologues way before brevity. Of course, it’s an act and is far better navigated and controlled than this self-deprecating drift suggests.
Space is tight at ‘The Stand’ and the analogy of a black hole is never far away. You do not escape Ince’s argument that what really counts is to notice things. What things? It doesn’t matter as long as you look and learn. Ince does not mention that particular weekly magazine for children published from 1962 until 1982, preferring for his stage the more adult and risible Unexplained, but Look and Learn is most certainly where his 44 year old heart is. There and with his five year old son, Archie, who can do no wrong and whose grasp of quantum theory is cute, for ‘Observe me [being bad] and I’ll collapse into a state of good behaviour’.
Perhaps there is too much of little Archie in extortionate Legoland and in the bath exploring himself and not enough of Charles Darwin and Richard Feynman, but Ince’s sincerity makes that forgivable. He bends double in near fury as he fulminates against the stupidity of rote learning in schools and is wicked about the telltale physiognomy of Secretaries Gove and Osborne. Crawley, presumably disfigured by Gatwick airport, gets it in the neck and ends up on the event horizon of non-existence, as do former Archbishop George Carey and the fatuous DJs on commercial radio that no self-respecting alien would listen to.
Co-host of BBC4’s The Infinite Monkey Cage, Ince can only admire the size of Darwin’s nose – that unbelievably almost denied him passage on HMS Beagle – and would defend to the last piglet squid, earth worm, or naked mole rat the right of a child to ask questions of their universe. That way we get to understand it a little more and can wear the ‘tribal scars’ of a BCG jag with pride. This comedian’s rational, humanist credentials are right up there with the Voyager programme. Ince doesn’t get heckled, he gets footnotes, addendums … (his joke).

 

nae bad_blue

Reviewer: Alan Brown (Seen 10 November)