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Great Ideas, By Geniuses

by on 11 October 2021

Scrumping For Gravity

Great Ideas, By Geniuses

Privates at OSO Arts Centre, Barnes until 10th October

Review by Andrew Lawston

In the opening moments of Great Ideas by Geniuses by Privates, a small torch projects the show’s title on to the inside of a small tent, using two transparent slides.  The second one is back to front, and is hurriedly reversed.

From the moment the tent revolves to reveal all three performers cramped inside, it’s clear that we’re in for an enjoyable evening of spirited physical comedy.  While the performers all begin the show dressed in primary-coloured jumpsuits, they are quickly shedding costumes and knocking themselves unconscious left, right and centre.

“It’s a show about ideas,” wild-eyed Luke Rollason tells the audience, while curly-haired Christian Brighty attempts to revive the unconscious and jolly tall Tom Curzon.  Once all three are on their feet again, they ask the audience to nominate famous thinkers.  A gentleman in the front row suggests David Hume, but the trio are more interested in his somewhat striking baritone voice.

And really, that is the show in a nutshell.  Everyday objects are repurposed, imaginatively and ambitiously, into ad hoc inventions that vary in effectiveness but which are always playful and very funny indeed.  Whether laminating slices of ham, using an angle-poise lamp to launch a model rocket, or creating bionic comedians with slinky spring limbs, it’s hard to tell whether the innovations that work are more or less satisfying than the damp squibs.

The show continues much along these lines, alternating between tightly-scripted, apparently-improvised, and actually-improvised, and switching between them easily.  The material’s delivery comes over as unhurried, and the performers seem to be having just as much fun as the audience.  And the audience are having a great time.  Some of the material is unsophisticated, whether the performers are “milking” a pantomime cow, or attempting to pull down each other’s underwear, but it’s all delivered with such playful energy, and alongside one-liners like “Newton went scrumping for gravity” that the audience remain firmly on side throughout.

Although the show inevitably takes the form of a series of sketches, from the discovery of fire to Galileo’s astronomical theories, via the Nobel Prize committee; the focus on invention, and several running jokes (now including David Hume) make it feel coherent.  Rollason gives frequent performances as “fire”, and a singularly suggestive fire he is too.  Brighty is called upon to hold the fort a couple of times while the other two change costumes off-stage.  These sections sometimes feel a little strained, he riffs well with the audience, but perhaps the costume changes take longer than envisaged, or perhaps the enthusiastic and engaged audience is just a little too sparse to support sustained interaction in the comparatively small venue of the OSO.  There’s sometimes a palpable sense of relief when Rollason and Curzon return to the stage.

With frequent costume changes, a huge and inventive array of repurposed props, a lengthy list of sound effects and music cues which belies the apparently off-the-cuff delivery, and three energetic and enthusiastic performers, the hour or so of Great Ideas by Geniuses flies past all too quickly and leaves the audience wanting more.

Andrew Lawston, October 2021

Photography by Onsen Presents

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