FamilyLondonReviewWest End

Brainiac Live – Garrick Theatre, London

Writer/Director: Andy Joyce

Reviewer: Scott Matthewman

Brainiac: Science Abuse was a Sky 1 entertainment show that ran for six seasons, being cancelled in 2008. That means that every single episode of the series upon this West End show for children is older than its target audience.

Not that seems to matter to the kids assembled a silly hour of explosions and the like, as writer/director Andy Joyce (in his stage persona of “Brainiac Ned”) coordinates a series of onstage stunts with the help of a team of – well, maybe experts is pushing it a little too hard.

Joyce is very definitely the star of his own show, willingly donning safety equipment as he subjects himself to various indignities. Attempts to explain the tensile strength of, in turn, paper, plasterboard and mesh netting are demonstrated by a crash-helmeted Joyce attempting to run through the various materials.

That stunt, and many others, are far more interested in visuals than in science explanation: another stunt where Joyce is strapped into an office chair to determine which propellants will make it spin the fastest doesn’t even attempt to touch upon the physics involved, choosing instead to focus on whether or not the Garrick’s stage will be vomited upon.

Sometimes the actual science does begin to creep in. In most cases, this is when Maggie Frazer’s Raz takes charge of the presentation duties. The most chemical of these is an exploration of what happens when calcium carbide and water mix – the production of acetylene used for explosive purposes, including the firing of Brainiac merchandise into the audience.

The use of several large props does, though, mean that the time between set-piece stunts can drag – a potentially lethal aspect on a show aimed at young audiences. Extended video sequences based on “mondegreens” – misheard lyrics – seem to elicit laughs more from the parents in the audience, who are more likely to know the original songs referenced. And even then, an extended conclusion featuring a distortion of the word to Carl Orff’s ‘O Fortuna’ from Carmina Buranapeters out once it goes part the first couple of bars as featured on The X Factor.

And while the conclusion featuring a couple of “Airzookas” – vortex cannons capable of blasting smoke rings across the Garrick auditorium – looks fun, it too is light on scientific detail.

So many children’s shows have been able to entertain young audiences even as they educated – from Johnny Ball, to the Clive Doig-devised shows of the 1980s and 1990s, to Operation Ouch!via ITV’s HOW!brand. As fun as some of the stunts in Brainiac Live may be, they don’t feel like they either educate or entertain as much as that rich history was able to. The pyrotechnics on stage may bang, but the show as a whole lacks fizz.

Continues until September 1, 2019 | Image: Contributed

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