Edinburgh49

“Morgan & West: Unbelievable Science” (Assembly George Square – Gordon Aikman Theatre, AUG 14-20, 22-25 : 16:30 : 60mins)

“The production values on this show are higher than Calvin Cordozar Broadus Jr. in a hot air balloon … The production value for money is (if anything in the material universe could be so) incalculable.”

Editorial Rating: 7 Stars: Outstanding

“How did he do that???” Daughter 1.0, aged 4 but 5 next birthday (something she would want you to know), is managing to grin from ear to ear while she is also open-mouthed in astonishment. We are in the careful cup stage. “OK, both hands. Focus on what you’re doing.” Thrills and (just occasionally) spills. How on Earth has the dandy chap on stage managed to put a glass tumbler full water into a hoop, swing it round his head, and never spill a drop?

Gravity is unfair, unkind, and unreasoning with regard to preschoolers. Gravity is to blame when one has taken a wee tumble while running on the wet cobblestones of George Square – despite a strongly-worded suggestion not to. It’s gravity’s fault that one has bumped one’s head while skylarking with one’s little sister on the sofa, despite the Patriarchy having less time for skylarking on the sofa than the Hong Kong authorities have for protests at the airport. So it’s fair to say that Daughter 1.0 likes seeing gravity defied.

Only gravity isn’t being defied by the untumbling tumbler or water, it’s being demonstrated. Mr Morgan and Mr West are VERY clear about that. This is NOT a magic act. These are not tricks. These are scientific demonstrations. Gravity is a fundamental law of nature, applicable at all times and in all places. Mr Morgan and Mr West are tending the flame of Scientific Enlightenment and they are doing so on hallowed ground.

It is to be regretted that David Hume and Ben Franklin, walking together on those same George Square cobblestones in the age of Enlightenment, couldn’t have got slightly closer to a proof (one so irrefutable that Newton, Einstein, and Lieutenant Data combined couldn’t have improved on it), that some moral laws are similarly universal no matter the context. Such a proof might have saved us from the present age of Endarkenment. Fake news from faker demagogues pushing utterly false pretexts and promises.

The production values on this show are higher than Calvin Cordozar Broadus Jr. in a hot air balloon – a beautiful science lab set, properties with the property of not looking improvised, fine tailoring, great grooming, and an electrostatic generator that manages to sound even scarier than it looks. The cost in fresh cardboard boxes alone must be more than most shows spend on flyering. The production value for money is (if anything in the material universe could be so) incalculable. Mr Morgan and Mr West are the very best kind of teachers in that they don’t try to be your friend, they want to get you thinking. This show does many things, but pandering isn’t one of them.

There are belly laughs aplenty. The jokes are clever, often visual, always flawlessly delivered. Gyles Brandreth once asked me on the radio, an impressive feat because he was in the studio with the actual guests and I was listening at home with my feet up, what my least favourite word is. “Whacky” I replied. It’s been done. It’s been overdone. The ‘80s are over. Timmy Mallett’s off eating bush tucker. Whacky is what Grandad was worried about. Mad scientists in a Hammer horrorshow of a science lab, being silly, talking without ever saying anything.

Grandad is an EH10 Edinbugger of the old skool. He doesn’t like the Fringe and he’s only coming along because he’s studiously avoiding Granny’s book festival event featuring an auld collaborator who Grandad feels has sold out to become a **shudders** popular scientist. Grandad is a professor, an evolutionary geneticist at KB who Richard Dawkins considers a bit hardcore on the science over dogma spectrum. But Grandad really enjoys the show. Granddad loves watching his granddaughter loving the show and wondering at the Science. It’s the parabasis that crowns all and sets this show apart.*

*You’ll have to look up the definition of parabasis. It’s not often we history and classics students get to out jargon the boffins.

For the parabasis, Mr Morgan and Mr West shift their attention to the parents and carers in the audience. Their sleeves are already rolled up from the final demonstration. They pull no punches about what Science is, why Science matters, how Science is explored, and why Science doesn’t care what you or I think about it. “The Earth IS round,” loud and excited applause, “critical climate change IS real and… VACCINATE YOUR KIDS.” The applause dies down, the yummy mummies and super cool daddies who equate their B in Higher Biology with membership in the RCGP are stunned into silence. It’s one of the bravest things that the EdFringe has seen since Rudolf Bing stepped off the train at Waverly in ‘47.

52 weeks in the year minus 3 weeks for the Fringe equals Edinburgh49. Our little site exists to promote the year-round arts scene in Scotland’s capital with informed, and informative insight. Our ratings system seeks to balance the informative, objective, and subjective. Up to five stars for technical performance, with the option for the reviewer to add a “nae bad” or “outstanding” badge. It’s worked well up till now, but Mr Morgan and Mr West have tested our instruments to their limits with a show that delivers to the George Square Theatre what Dubai levels of luxury deliver to the hotel sector.

If John Reith, the Scottish broadcasting executive who established the tradition of independent public service broadcasting, were on hand and not simply dust in the Rothiemurchus wind, I would ask him to present Mr Morgan and Mr West with Edinburgh49’s first (and possibly only) ever seven-star outstanding review.

Reviewer: Dan Lentell (Seen 14 October)

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THIS REVIEW HAS NOT BEEN SUBEDITED