BWW Review: THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF LIEVEN SCHEIRE, Soho Theatre, May 12 2016
So it's a Belgian you've never heard of talking about Special Relativity, something you have heard of, but don't understand. As Lieven himself points out, it's not the easiest sell. But, with the nexus between nerdism and humour being championed by the likes of QI and The Big Bang Theory, there's a growing market for this kind of comedy and that showed in the very mixed audience who pitched up for The Wonderful World of Lieven Schiere (at Soho Theatre until May 14).
And what a delightful gig it is. Lieven is a comedy star in his native Belgium (no giggling at the back now) and that shows in his relaxed delivery, easy charm and lovely interactions with the audience (unless you're a biologist, maybe). We get some nice self-deprecating stuff about his home country, the EU (including a killer one-liner on Ukip) and the perils of cycling in London. It's a warm stand-up routine, the barbs barely stinging, but beautifully observed and just what was needed after a hot day in the metropolis.
After twenty minutes of such, er... banter, we get into the physics at last and, just as he says, the maths bits are easy, but the conceptualising is hard. The Lorentz Transformations really are as straightforward as he claims and, with a nod to Enrico Fermi and Richard Feynman (natch!) we're soon having fun with thought experiments, sitting on shrinking rockets in contracting barns. It's real science and given its due respect, but, with a touch of the Royal Institution's Christmas Lectures in its tone, it's entertaining too.
And, just when I was getting ready to tackle the bendy spacetime of General Relativity, Lieven takes his leave and a wonderfully eccentric, informative and enjoyable hour is done and we're back dealing with vehicles that travel at 30km per hour in the West End and not 300,000km per second somewhere near Saturn. I prefer the latter - relatively speaking...