• By Tom King
  • |
  • 12th Aug 2013
  • |
  • ★★★★

It’s official – science is now sexy. Thanks to media-friendly academics like Professor Brian Cox or Dr Alice Roberts it’s now cool to understand why the world around you does the things that it does. Finally, the geeks have inherited the earth.

Yet while we see a rash of new shows dedicated to uncovering life’s mysteries – why are humans the way we are? How much of our character is bred into us and how much is due to the influences that shape us? Are women and men truly from different planets? – we are still far from finding any solution. In BrainSex Timandra Harkness attempts to answer these questions.

As a self-confessed anomaly – dresses like a woman, thinks like a man – Harkness has a stake in this question. After all, if her brain is intrinsically different to a bloke’s brain then shouldn’t there be certain behaviours just built in?

Harkness is well-suited to presenting this material. Whilst she herself may not be an expert on the brain she provides a witty structure for her interviews with the experts themselves, such as the University of Plymouth’s Dr Martin Coath (apparently also the show’s musical director – clever clogs…) and her comic timing is excellent.

Whether it’s through the medium of a French ballad, bemoaning the uncertain nature of consciousness from behind a beret and (electronic) Gauloise or mocking the ‘emotional recognition’ actor she sprinkles the dry facts that form the basis of the show with a touch of humour which doesn’t attempt to teach but simply points out the interesting and lets you gravitate towards it. Let’s also not forget that it’s not every performer who would put both their money and the chance of an electric shock on the line simply to illustrate the principle of risk-aversion…

Needless to say the show isn’t an unqualified success. For example, Harkness’ frequent costume changes serve as a bit of a distraction, possibly just providing her with something to do other than simply standing there while one of her collaborators explains a certain complex point. While it’s obviously a difficult balance to strike, I couldn’t help but feel that certain sections, such as Man V Mouse, were a little light on actual content.

Nonetheless, these criticisms aside, BrainSex is an engaging, informative and self-improving hour which will leave you stuffed with new facts and a thirst for more.

Reviews by Tom King


A Fortunate Man

Underbelly, Cowgate

The Cat's Mother

The Stand Comedy Club 3 & 4

Phill Jupitus: Sassy Knack

Traverse Theatre

Nigel Slater’s Toast

CanadaHub @ King's Hall in association with Summerhall

Famous Puppet Death Scenes

Assembly George Square Gardens

Jess Robinson: No Filter



The Blurb

Men read maps better, but women read emotions - so say brain scientists. Is the key to human behaviour inside our skulls? ‘A deadly wit’ (Scotsman). 2010: ‘exponentially funny’, **** (ThreeWeeks). 2012: ‘entertaining and unique’, **** (ThreeWeeks).