As usual, about an hour before the first Hammersmith show, all became chaos. the afternoon had been a quiet one of propelling bottles in the audience using hydrogen and a cannon, seeing how many things could be set on fire securely, safely and with as big a flame as possible, working out the jazz/piano entrance of our secret astronaut, the humdrum normality. Once the acts started to arrive, the powerpoints piled up, the offstage banter about quarks increased, the bottles of mercury and poison clattered, the audience walked into the auditorium making that noise of chatter that suggests expectation but uncertainty.
So for all those that asked, here is what happened from 7pm onwards.
It began with a laser harp, one so powerful you could light your cigarette off the beams (well you couldn’t of course, as there is no smoking indoors, just great big lasers), the harpists speedy playing style expressed the fear of finger of loss from shiny technology.
On the first night we used a laser harp some months back, it failed to work. Nothing seemed to help, then the harpists religious mother in law prayed for it, and it was immediately fixed. Chance moves in mysterious ways. Fortunately, since then, a more scientific reason has been found.
I went on and talked of, or rather bellowed about, Brian Blessed. He was originally going to join us, but sadly was poorly on the night.
Marcus DuSautoy was first on, mixing the patterns of numbers and football, his two favourite things.
Fran Scott, who joins the list of people I have booked to play Hammersmith Apollo despite never having seen her work, just on a hunch, mixed electricity, water, butane and cannons; a moment of suspense for health and safety.
Grace Petrie sang her beautiful song about a letter Emma Darwin wrote to Charles, expressing her worry they would not meet in heaven due to his theories.
Ben Goldacre tallked very fast, then slowed down, then got serious, then mentioned dinosaur poo, all in the cause of alltrials.net.
Robyn Hitchcock sang as beautifully as ever.
Samuel West read his favourite bits of Richard Feynman.
Brian Cox then did one of his, “here are beautiful new visions of galaxies” speeches> I had insisted this year that he didn’t have too many mentions of muons, gluons or Lagrangian mechanics, as people enjoy getting lost with him, but that then teeters into grand confusions. Brian then went to the piano, what was going on, the first few bars of Space Oddity and then – CHRIS HADFIELD. The audience erupted, an immediate standing ovation. This was one of the most excited moments I have witnessed at the Apollo, a true astronaut hero’s welcome.
After the interval it was a Q&A with Chris Hadfield, accompanied by Brian, Katy Brand and Ross Noble. Amongst other things, Noble attempted to explain Romford to Chris Hadfield. (at least one of the on stage interviews will hopefully be on http://www.cosmicgenome.com as well as a to camera interview with Chris Hadfield. His “chaos of delight” was astounding and beautiful).
Rufus Hound was meant to be on next, but was not there yet. He was coming from The News Quiz and, seeing there was a number 10 from Oxford Circus to Hammersmith, decided he would take that rather than a taxi.
Helen Czerski eschewed demonstrating her usual expertise on bubble science and spoke of snakes instead.
Rufus then turned up, hurriedly tried to download the backing track he wanted, and went on. 7 seconds into the track, the buffering began, so the band played a very different tune, and Rufus took on the mantle of an impassioned, drunk golfer annoying a Salvation Army band outside a Lidl, but he played the part well, and the speech on our place in the universe was rather good.
Dr Hula (aka Richard Vranch and “Pippa The Ripper”) explained the elements and electrons via hula hooping, Andrea Sella showed the strange and delightful behaviour of mercury, and then Festival of the Spoken Nerd yet again demonstrated just why they are so lauded as science entertainers via flames and mathematics and ukulele.
And then it was Billy Bragg to close – from the Space Race is Over to Waiting for the Great Leap Forwards.
and by jingo, this year the show was only 3hrs 59 minutes long, but that was Thursday, there was one more show yet to come.
A special thanks to Steve Pretty and the Origin of the Pieces who accompanied so beautifully and arranged so quickly and to Giles Wakeley who gets things done.
I am off with my new science shows again in 2014 – Nottingham, Norwich, Bristol, Sheffield and many more, plus tours with Grace Petrie and Josie Long and much more, all dates HERE
Happiness through Science DVDs (incl Brian Cox commentary) HERE