Reviewer: Sebastian Farrell
Renowned ethologist, evolutionary biologist and writer Richard Dawkins has, since the 2006 publication of The God Delusion become somewhat of a shaman to a new generation and it’s movement toward atheism and better religious thinking. Having appeared regularly on TV across the globe, and with the more recent assistance of social media, he is credited with reaching millions of people and spreading his explanations and criticisms of creationism and intelligent design specifically.
This reviewer has become somewhat of a fan of Dawkins in recent years and the prospect of spending a night learning more about this most fascinating orator is exciting. However the ‘Evening With’ is more of a glorified book launch with Dawkins publishing the second part of his autobiography Brief Candle in The Dark the week before. It’s a leather chesterfield two seater interview filled with more of the detailed nuances of his work in evolution than an in depth analysis into the man himself, which is a shame. It’s all led by an interviewer showing (and regularly referring to) his own academia while displaying little skill in the way of conducting a thorough and entertaining interview. The questions are more statements of fact, he regales Dawkins with stories about mutual friends and personal theories and at one point even complains that the new book, the second biography he has ever read, is not personal enough for his taste. We never get a full introduction to the evening itself, the presenter or Dawkins as it’s assumed by the presenter that the audience know who they both are and ploughs on regardless.
Dominating an interview with one of the world’s most outspoken atheists with talk of the various colourations in butterflies and the haemoglobin in the wing of a small bird may have been a little too much for a large section of the audience interested in Dawkins other work and not nearly as entertaining as our presenter thought it was. The book excerpts read by Dawkins is where the first half of the show delivers, particularly the story about his daughters loyalty during a Christmas Lecture in 1991 and excellent anecdotes about Douglas Adams, Christopher Hitchens and the peerless David Attenborough. However the mutual academic back slapping from a smug presenter and baffled Dawkins hit the forth wall with aplomb. The first half overran due to overly long questions/statements by the presenter who then warned us the audience not to do the same in the second half, then bragged to Dawkins about not having a watch when asked how long they had left.
During the second half audience Q and A, Dawkins shines and he builds an excellent rapport with the room while answering every question posed with his usual wit, intellect and gusto.
A shame that a man who has a Facebook fanbase 1.3 million strong, can clearly hold a live audiences attention and was voted by Prospect Magazine as the Worlds Top Thinker is given so little in terms of support, guidance, time and professionalism during his live show/book launch. A little dry for a general audience but a must for Dawkins fans.
Reviewed on 15th September 2015