Chris and Steve’s Universe of Music at King’s Place Theatre
Unlikely pairings are one of the fail-proof backbones of Western culture, from the buddy cop comedy to the chalk and cheese love story. Naturally, The Cosmic Shambles Network have now taken this formula and applied it to a night of electronic music, chit chat and scientific exposition exploring the overlap between music and astronomy.
The two cops in this particular pairing bounce well off one another. Professor Chris Lintott is an esteemed Oxford scientist, presenter of the BBC’s The Sky at Night and co-founder of citizen science project Galaxy Zoo. His charming embodiment of the classic Oxbridge well-spoken self-deprecation makes him an excellent host. Here, he bounces off of Steve Pretty, a musician who heads up the Hackney Colliery Band, described by him as a “post-modern brass band”. His zanier, cool eccentricity plays well with Lintott’s more conservative presentation, making for a really compelling and very endearing double act.
The duo tap into the grand tradition of combining music, comedy and deep technical knowledge and at times brush against the likes of Bill Bailey. They are helped by the great material they have to work with; outer space is a topic that can be spoken of in very basic terms whilst still being completely mind-blowing, and combining and comparing this with music leads to some really interesting discussion.
The sheer size of topic and the hosts’ levels of respective expertise are also the weakness of this show, however. While each man is an authority in his own field, they do not have enough communal knowledge between them to weave something narratively strong or coherent – at least not yet. Subjects are switched between quickly and without connections, meaning that at the end, the audience feel like they have gathered some interesting trivia, but do not have an overarching message or concept to take home with them. They are not, in this case, helped by the venue: the conference room atmosphere makes the stumbles all the more evident and further blurs the lines between performance and lecture.
The hour is ultimately entertaining, mostly because of the obvious enjoyment of the two presenters. It’s like watching two people meet at a party and fall over themselves to share data points and compare geekiness. It’s not quite a performance at this stage, but perhaps with some rigorous work on the narrative and construction of the evening, the show could become something really impactful. It is, as they say, a “work in progress” and it will be interesting to see what trajectory that progress follows.
Image: Steve Best
Chris and Steve’s Universe of Music is at King’s Place Theatre on 3rd April 2019 and at The Old Town Hall, Hemel Hempstead on 4th May 2019. For further information or to book visit the show’s website here.