Science at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe: Your Days are Numbered
Louise Crane visited the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2010 to review shows funded by our Arts and People Awards. Here she gives her view of a comedy that you could be dying to see by the end of the post.
Your Days Are Numbered. Quite literally, in this comedy on “the maths of death” performed by Matt Parker and Timandra Harkness and funded by a Wellcome Trust People Award.
If you’re at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this August and would like to know how statistically likely it is you’ll die during a show, this is the one to attend. Don’t worry too much though as, at 0.000043%, you’ll be pretty safe.
Matt, a mathematician, and Timandra, a writer, are a delightful duo. Matt, the nerdy one, kicks off the show with some remarkable feats of mathematical dexterity. He describes his profession as “stand-up mathematician”, and I didn’t realise quite how funny mental arithmetic could be until now. However, it’s possible I was laughing at his sheer enthusiasm for cube roots of large numbers, rather than with him.
Timandra is undeniably cooler. She ridicules Matt’s suggestion that six minutes of canoeing is pretty similar to taking an ecstasy pill – the chances of dying from both are the same at 1 in a million. But a physical demonstration of both activities amusingly shows Matt to be correct. There’s a serious connection here to the recent calls for the decriminalisation of some drugs based on quantitative assessments of risk, though it’s a tacit point left to be made by the audience in their afterthoughts.
The show has more than a flavour of Timmy Mallett, with devices like the “Death-O-Meter” made, apparently, in Matt’s garage. But this childish charm really won me over and I giggled as I discovered the risk of “death by bees” relative to “death by water” (a.k.a. drowning).
It’s a nerdy show. Matt’s jokes are often annotated with a voiceover, to explain just why they’re funny. Educational, but fun.
Midway through the show, the audience begin to be metaphorically, but systematically killed off by the protagonists to demonstrate life expectancy. If the show had been a liftetime, by the end all but one of 141-strong audience would be dead.
This is not enough for Matt, whose determination to exterminate every single person results in an unlikely, but hilarious final death scene.
Will it be death by aliens? Ladder? Or laughter?
Louise Crane, Project Officer at Wellcome Images
Your Days are Numbered is showing at Assembly Rooms @ George Street until Monday, 30th August.
Find out more at www.yourdaysarenumbered.co.uk
Note, see Louise’s previous post from Edinburgh here.