Ricky Gervais: Science, Edinburgh Playhouse, Edinburgh
Thursday 27 August 2009
As with Animals, Politics and Fame, Ricky Gervais' new show, Science, bears little or no relation to its moniker; rather, it is an excuse to set the stage as Frankenstein's castle laboratory. Of course, what's in a name if the material is good?
Certainly, Gervais starts evenly enough, in particular with an amusing tale about watching Ken Dodd perform in Regent's Park alongside a sexually excited female fan. The routine builds to Gervais making a bizarre soundscape of Dodd's trademark groans and the moans of this over-amorous lady mixed in with Gervais' own gasping bewilderment.
Inevitably, in what follows, there is a large measure of tongue-in-cheek political incorrectness. So for example, Gervais wants to keep the goat that his friends have gifted an African family in his name. This kind of shtick falls down for me, however, when he describes the only time he found himself drinking and driving. Remarking that he nearly knocked over an old woman he adds: "I didn't though... I raped her." Gervais says that this is his "favourite" joke, but it is ill-judged to say the least.
When you go from this rape joke to a joke about how spiders look like they are "always ready", you can see how unstructured Science is. In many shows themes and ideas weave in and out and, as a reviewer or an audience member, you are able to pick up threads and tie them together. With Science you might as well talk about it chronologically, as a timeline is the show's only binding.
The longest section of the show is a dissection of an old school book Gervais recently found that tells the story of Noah's Ark. This fable is every atheist's dream, an easy comic target and one that is revisited often. Trashing it is perhaps the only part of the show that links to science in the sense that the tale is irrational and his embroidery is attempting to undermine it. "Toucans fly! Get there first!" he exclaims pointing at a projected image of the birds walking to the ark.
Weakly lampooning a couple of Oscar Wilde quotes and noting that swearing would be out of place on the Antiques Roadshow are just some of the gems that come before the end of this 75-minute show. Perhaps Hollywood, the reason why Gervais' stock has risen lately, is also why his latest stand-up offering is his most disappointing.
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