|Review: Helen Keen - It Is Rocket Science!|
|Written by Richard Stamp|
|Published on Saturday, 10 July 2010|
Is There Life On Mars? enquired David Bowie, welcoming me back into Underground Venues for my second show of the day. Unsurprisingly, Helen Keen’s witty stand-up act didn’t answer that question – but it was packed full of informative space oddities, describing an entertaining orbit around the early days of rocketry and Man’s voyage to the Moon.
Keen by name and keen by nature, our bookish (but not too bookish) hostess has the perfect persona for this show. She’s done it a hundred times before, of course, but she still bubbles with enthusiasm for her subject; and as she recalled how her younger self looked out of the window at the stars, I remembered with nostalgia the similar fascinations of my own youth. This is, overall, a gently nostalgic show, with plenty of cultural references to keep all ages in the audience amused.
Keen’s carefully-cultivated scatty image is complemented by some gloriously third-rate visual aids, including a low-tech “video projector” (no spoilers, you’ll just have to come and see it) and face-masks playing the part of world leaders. Alongside Keen’s persuasive charm, these toys did a great job of drawing the audience in; we all had a bit-part in the narrative, and we were all delighted to play along.
I must take issue with one thing, though: this really isn’t rocket science. The one true science bit – where physical principles were expressed through the medium of shadow puppetry – felt rather bolted-on. In truth, this was a show about people, and it’s none the worse for that; I left with a renewed appreciation for the pioneers of rocketry, and a delightful steampunk vision of the 1920’s flappers who greeted each other with the motto – “Onwards, to Mars!”
It’s onwards for this show, too, with a second Edinburgh run coming this August. And Edinburgh needs shows like this – comedy with a purpose, inventively staged. Time will tell if Keen becomes a shooting star… but she surely deserves to fly.
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These are archived reviews of shows from Buxton 2010. We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.