“The thing I was going to show you – well there’s a few things to show you – but I want to tell you something else first,” says Robin Ince some time into this intellectual whirlwind of a show.
All the science stuff is really about his awe and wonder for the everyday, in which he asks us to share.
At the top of the show, Ince launches straight into topic after topic after topic. The election, having arguments on Twitter, the reasons UKIP voters live at the seaside, information overload and Brian Cox’s boyish looks all whiz past, seemingly in whatever order Ince’s impulses take him. There are so few pauses for breath that he must be able to breathe in and say the word ‘and’ simultaneously.
He loves asides, revels in divergent, is the king of tangents. Like a less obnoxious Tristram Shandy, Ince never seems to start the topics he is meant to. Forty-two minutes into the show he begins to get to the point: “this is the story I wanted to tell,” he says at last. Fifty-one minutes in: “I’ve just realise I’ve not shown you the main slides”.
Of course, it’s the tangents the audience are here for. Hearing Ince talk is to hear the internal monologue a very clever man, eternally baffled with the world. He riffs on Lord Kelvin, quantum physics and delivers what, I guarantee, must be the best routine about Planck’s Constant anywhere at the Fringe.
Ince is never distant or aloof, though. All the science stuff is really about his awe and wonder for the everyday, in which he asks us to share. Likewise, the talk is full of name-dropping: conversations with celebrities and Nobel prize winners are recounted frequently. As Ince’s point of view always assumes his own inferiority, this never becomes boastful or grating. The set, however, is sometimes over-reliant on anecdotes, with laughs often sought from funny things other people have said, rather than Ince’s own creation.
We come through Robin Ince’s Reality Tunnel with a little bit of knowledge about a lot of new things. The only thing we conspicuously have not learnt is whatever was on the main part of his slideshow.