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Age of the Geek
Published on Sunday, 20 May 2012

3 stars

Upstairs at Three and Ten (venue website)
18-20 May, 3:00pm-3:50pm
Reviewed by Darren Taffinder

 Parental Guidance. Under-17's must be accompanied by an adult.
 Warning: Contains strong language.
 World Premiere.
 2-for-1 tickets for Friends of the Fringe members.

I don’t think of myself as a geek, but I do have geek tendencies. I go to a monthly comic book reading group, I own all four series of Blake’s 7 and I can name all eleven Doctors in order (including Paul McGann). When I was at school, these were things I kept rather quiet about. Now, though, being a geek is nothing to ashamed of – in fact, just look at Mark Zuckerberg – geek is in.

So I was really looking forward to Hayden Cohen’s one-man show. Age of the Geek is a mixture of spoken word poetry, music and comedy, and some of it’s inspired. The show begins with a lightsaber display and a send-up of a famous poem, the first of a very clever series of geek-flavoured verse. He also sings the geek anthem in binary, together with a song admitting that he loves Star Wars more than Star Trek. (For those who aren’t in the know, this is somewhat like the Catholic-Protestant divide – though personally I’ve never understood the appeal of the Star Trek universe, and its vision of a future where trousers don’t come with pockets.)

But around the half-way mark, Cohen started to lose me a bit. The centrepiece of the show is a story about a Facebook-like entity in an alternative universe, which stores people’s identity on a liquid database. For me, it was far too dense and verbose.  Even though he lightened it up with a song midway through, the whole story was hard to follow and the wordplay seemed forced. It also felt slightly dated, the targets too easy; it needed to be more Luke Skywalker bullseyeing womp rats back home, rather than the Death Star blowing-up Aldaraan. There’s a lot of things to say about Facebook and our cultural obsession with it, and I wanted it closer to the bone.

Worse, though, the show had an over-rehearsed quality to it, as if every moment had been scripted. It felt like a stadium rock show where the only thing that changes from night to night is the name of the city. This is fine in the O2, but it felt out of place in the more intimate Three and Ten.

The best bit came towards the end, when he played several well known themes songs on the stylophone. Having spent several hours trying to learn Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star a few years ago, I couldn’t help but be impressed. It was fantastic, and afterwards – exhausted – he stepped back and admitted that it had taken him over 50 hours to get that right. That was a great natural moment, and I wanted more moments like that.

This show is hard for me to give a rating to. In some ways I really enjoyed it, in others it was disappointing. To express it in appropriately geeky terms, it’s like the even-numbered Star Trek films versus the odd-numbered ones. In the end, sadly, it was more Star Trek The Motion Picture than Wrath of Khan.

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These are archived reviews of shows from Brighton 2012.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.