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It Is Rocket Science

Thursday, 5 August, 2010

Verdict: Onward to Mars

London – Etcetera Theatre – 3 August 2010 – 21.00 (1:00)

Helen Keen with some of her props

Helen Keen is an engaging character, a self-deprecating thirty-something who lives in a converted garage in Ruislip, she’s not quite living the 21st Century, city bachelorette lifestyle that she might have imagined for herself. Nothing too dramatically different there perhaps, but her show, called It Is Rocket Science allows her to talk – very entertainingly – about herself and her background, as well as about her fascination with space and space exploration.

It has to be done with a certain style of course, and this tour of the universe takes place with a number of charming, but not too polished props that allow her to demonstrate the quirkiness of this area of scientific endeavour.

Perhaps every area of science has its weirdnesses, but the fact that America finally put a man on the moon owing largely to an uneasy collaboration between a Nazi and a satanist is just one of the facts that Helen Keen brings into the open.

There are a lot of other such coincidences and accidents of fate along the way.

For this show to succeed, it needs some audience participation and Helen Keen certainly got a lot of it (perhaps a little too much?), the audience fully engaging with a need for someone to adopt the character of Patrick Moore (and to read nuggets of wisdom from one of his books on space), as well as to take on new characters and nationalities for their part in this light-hearted evening.

One of the key props is a tinfoil-covered rocket shape, which includes a screen through which Miriam (no second name given) projects some simple but wonderful shadow-shapes in the best tradition of children’s television or perhaps the booth at the village fete. It is all very charming and gently funny.

There’s also a lot about the pioneers who first envisaged, then calculated, then made a reality of space travel. She brings their stories to life in a fusion of stand-up comedy and light-hearted descriptions of the characters and accidents that surround man’s attempt to break free from the planet.

Cast Credits: Performer – Helen Keen; Shadow puppets – Miriam

Reviewed 3 August 2010

(c) Michael Spring

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