Last night, Matt Parker performed in front of a room two-thirds full of software engineers. This is most likely an issue of advertising (the whole maths meets comedy malarky), as the show Parker presents is for the most part exceedingly accessible – despite his best efforts to persuade you otherwise. Even the sections where he plays off the audience’s clear above norm understanding of mathematics, have a comedic absurdity to the rest of the audience who aren’t following along.
There is one glaring issue with this show, Matt Parker isn’t that necessary for the show to function. The stage design, laser lights and various props in the show, while impressive all feel a little too pre-prepared. The moments of supposed audience interaction are revealed to be an unsubtle segway into pre-prepared material. Even the material he covers itself – stories of mathematic failures and their real-world implications – while interesting and comedic, don’t feel as though they’ve gained much in transition from Parker reading about them to Parker telling them to his audience.
While his stage presence might not add a great deal to the performance, it definitely doesn’t detract. There is a warm enthusiasm in his character that matches his past as a maths teacher. His genuine excitement in the fields he’s discussing is beyond endearing and quite the inverse of the irony that drenches many of the new blooming comics.
It is telling that the one moment of genuine excitement in the set comes when Parker truly hands over control to his audience and to chance. This is perhaps the problem of over rehearsing. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with pure entertainment, the lack of character and attempt to innovate, as well as an absence of strong laughs and breathing room, makes the whole grandiose affair feel plastic.
Louis Boyd Madsen