We all have our Christmas traditions, whether it be watching the Queen’s speech, wearing that Christmas jumper or pretending to love the present of socks and handkerchiefs that Aunty Beryl gives you every year. Over the past three years Prof Brian Cox and Robin Ince’s Christmas show at the Hammersmith Apollo has become one of mine.
The performers are kept a secret but the surprise is all part of what makes these shows so great. It’s always an eclectic mix of scientists, comedians and singers, much like Robin Ince’s late lamented Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People, and this year certainly didn’t disappoint. Greg Foot posed us with scientific curiousity to solve, Sara Pascoe and Dara O’Brien provided brilliant comedy while culture was provided by a beautiful string quartet (us geek types are so sophisticated you know). More musical joy was provided by some one off duets.First up the sublime Alison Moyet gave us a performance of the Yazoo classic “Don’t Go” with Prof Cox being Vince Clarke for the evening while Charlotte Church and Grace Petrie sang an electrifying version of Anais Mitchell’s “Why we build the wall”.
The Sky at Night’s Chris Lintott revealed his part in a cover up of the existance of alien life (or so the Daily Mail thought), much cheerier than last year’s death of the universe and Johnny Berlinner taught us how to scale the universe using fruit, possibly a skill I may never need but very entertaining none the less.
For those who like to live a little more dangerously Prof Andrea Sella gave an explosive demonstration of the power of dry ice. A health and safety nightmare that saw two plastic bins dispatched in spectacular style. The front row needn’t have thought themselves safe after that. Festival of the Spoken Nerd provided musical accompanyment by turning the front row into a human speaker cable and if that were not enough the experiment was expanded to give the whole Hammersmith Apollo with a musical “group hug”. As Helen Arney declared “I am become speaker cable”.
I don’t think that I’ve seen a show where an ironing board has been put to so much practicle use. George Egg gave Nigella a run for her money by giving a culinary lesson in how to prepare meals using the complimentary items found in hotel rooms. Irons and kettles were the new argas and free alcohol could be obtained in a Raiders of the Lost Minibar fashion. The ironing board returned for an encore with the most fast paced and sweary demonstration of live regression analysis I’ve ever seen, curtosy of Dr Ben Goldacre.
For me though the highlights were during the second night, which featured an appearance from friend of The Infinite Monkey Cage, Cmdr Chris Hadfield who sang his self penned Christmas song and gave us a fascinating insight into what Major Tim Peake could expect when he blasted off for the ISS. The whole shebang was then rounded off by a set from New Order. Even Prof Cox couldn’t contain his excitement and was rewarded by joining Bernard Sumner and co on stage to play keyboards on one track. The only dissapointment was that there wasn’t enough time for them to perform Blue Monday, maybe that would be a good excuse to get them back next year?
Yet again Brian and Robin put together an amazing show that also raises funds for some amazing charities. Initially they had planned to take a hiatus in 2016 but I’m delighted there’s been a change of mind and tickets are now on sale for next Christmas’ show. Get in there quick as tickets sell out fast.