What started as pub conversation over bitter and chips a little over a year ago, ended at Hammersmith Apollo at 23.32 on 21st December. It had a running time of 242 minutes and was possibly the live show of 2012 most likely to give you deep vein thrombosis. My shows have reputation for being overly long, though I call it value for money and a test of your character. One week beforehand the stage manager had suggested that, taking all into account, the show should be over by 10.30pm. I don’t think either of us really believed that, but it was a comforting illusion around Christmas time. So the idea was that there was no better time to celebrate rationalism, science, wizardry and angry music than on the day when the world was, as it so often is, predicted to come to its end.
So here, for those who were there and perhaps a few who weren’t, is the order of events of Brian and Robin’s End of the World show. (links are to original works not footage of the event itself)
An offstage ramble between Brian Cox and me about the beginning of the universe led into Scroobius Pip performing Thou Shalt Always Kill . He was accompanied by our house band, Trad Max, who provided the sort of trad jazz that eases us into the apocalypse.
Brian Cox then went into the pulpit. Yes, we had a pulpit. With people moaning, “but isn’t science a religion”, we thought we’d treat it as such for one night only – a religion that is self-correcting and which contains priests hankering to disprove the sacred texts. His readings included a little bit of this of course. Take it as read that I waffled between acts and asked What is the biggest bear? and Why Don’t women have beards?
Then our first and only self-proclaimed wizard Alan Moore talked of paranoid possibilities of our cosmological existence. Then it was into the biology module of the night with Professor Steve Jones on Darwin (he loves this clip ) and Aoife Mclysagt on figs. here she is not on figs . Then it was Stewart Lee in the guise of the Mayan god of death (not dissimilar to a gothic Ken Dodd) followed by a song from Grace Petrie http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GntVz_VzW6o
Physicist Jon Butterworth talked of tooth fairies and the ATLAS experiment, then Brian sat in with the Phil Jeays band. Marcus Du Sautoy took us through the mathematics of the evening, a song from science teacher Johnny Berliner then it’s was Jim Al-Khalili with some Feynman. The Festival of the Spoken Nerd did something superb with overhead projectors which led to Adam Rutherford introducing this with live accompaniment (and hence backstage chaos) by 65 Days of Static An interval already, how strange, we are only two hours in.
David McAlmont and Guy Davies treated us to Christmas song, but here is another one of theirs in the guise of Fingersnap http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JCAt6AHXRdc
Brian came back on to talk gravitational pulls, Hubble and Pale Blue Dots followed by Simon Singh talking of the enigma machine, delightfully there was a spontaneous round of applause for Alan Turing.
Then last minute guests, Evan Harris and Hugh Grant re-enacted Evan’s exchange with the Queen’s homeopath. Ben Goldacre astonished me by keeping to time, Josie Long read from her Charles Darwin diary and whooped for Bromley. Then, by now my mind addled by a day of organisational chaos, I accidentally introduced Kate Tempest ahead of time. She is a phenomenal spoken word performer. Oh and somewhere amongst this Steve Coogan popped on and introduced a Hacked Off video.
Then Brian skyped Eric Idle who urgently needed the cricket scores.
Jon Culshaw and Chris Lintott remembered Patrick Moore. We were nearly there, we really were.
Ben Miller read from his diary (also available in the Christmas New Statesman edited by Brian and I – here’s our editorial that has created more fracas than I imagined http://www.newstatesman.com/sci-tech/sci-tech/2012/12/brian-cox-and-robin-ince-politicians-must-not-elevate-mere-opinion-over-sc )
Andrea Sella brought on a test tube taller than a human and made things bang and stink, THAT’S CHEMISTRY.
Richard Wiseman shocked the audience with lewd images that were revealed to be less lewd piglet photos to educate us about the pattern seeking nature of the human brain and then Dara O Briain rounded it off (almost) with some stand up about the film 2012.
Finally I took to the pulpit and read Richard Feynman’s “I an atom in the universe, a universe of atoms” as Brian played Vangelis, before seeking a new philosophy of life demanding that things must get better must get better. And so the angels and d:ream took to the stage, and with a flurry of pyros and a disco ball, the entire ensemble ended up backing singing Things Can Only Get Better.
And that’s variety. Then we had a drink.
All profits are going to Medecins Sans Frontieres, the Sophie Lancaster Charity and the Manchester University Science Scholarship fund.
I am touring my new show – Importance of Being Interested from February – dates here http://www.robinince.com There was no video or TV recording of the End of the world show, but we have plans to create something, maybe even a meeting of art and science, with the audio.
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