As term gets ever closer the reality hits that everone is expecting me to do demo lecture and the level of expectation just scares the hell out of me. How does one build a new show? And from what?
In the past, I have often just used the opportunity to try out things that I haven’t done before, stringing them together randomly, and see what works in front of an audience that lets me get away with murder, in part, I suspect, because they are dying to see me do something really dumb and get slightly hurt. I humour them by adopting a slightly bumbling persona, in order to give the impression that I haven’t a clue of what’s going to happen or whether anything will actually work. It’s an effective strategy because you can’t really lose.
Anyway this year the plan is to do a new show called Bangs and Meringues (though the thought of calling it Bings and Merings did occur). The idea is to go from bubbles to surface tension, reprising and extending the Cheltenham surface tension routine I did last year, and building up to a frothing mess of bread and meringue making and finishing off with a series of fires either in foams or put out by them.
The first run through in front of an, admittedly almost dead, audience was a total mess, where the storyline went to pieces in part because the Departmental printer I use was on the fritz and I found myself without the cribsheet I was relying on. So horse went before cart and then the wheels came off. But we dragged things home and the audience had some questions.
A second run through, in front of another schools audience, went a lot better. And although having a revised (and printed!) running order helped, it was really the audience reaction to the opening that really helped. They laughed almost immediately. It’s astonishing how infectious that is and for me, it brings pictures and ideas dashing through my mind, wacky invention, unexpected pauses. The feedback loop closes and you’re away.
So now, with the aid of a few slides and even a couple of equations (my God!) I think we’re hot to trot.
So October 5th 2010 5 pm at UCL Chemistry, WC1H 0AJ. 180 seats to fill and everyone welcome. Let’s see how it goes. Comments, feedback, brickbats welcome.