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The Idiot Brain, Dome Studio (Brighton Festival) – Review

Pros: Interesting discussion, led by smart, funny presenters

Cons: More of a book promotion than a performance

Pros: Interesting discussion, led by smart, funny presenters Cons: More of a book promotion than a performance The Idiot Brain is billed as a light-hearted look at the psychology of superstition, the neuroscience of sleep, how tall people are more intelligent, and why a glass of wine might improve our memory. I anticipated a performed approach to the subject not unlike that in Ruby Wax’s ongoing tour Sane New World. A serious subject, approached in an engaging and intelligent way, but entertaining in its delivery. Not least of all since Dean Burnett, author of the recently published The Idiot Brain,…

Summary

Rating

Poor

An engaging and funny discussion, marred by technical issues and a strong commercial agenda.

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The Idiot Brain is billed as a light-hearted look at the psychology of superstition, the neuroscience of sleep, how tall people are more intelligent, and why a glass of wine might improve our memory. I anticipated a performed approach to the subject not unlike that in Ruby Wax’s ongoing tour Sane New World. A serious subject, approached in an engaging and intelligent way, but entertaining in its delivery. Not least of all since Dean Burnett, author of the recently published The Idiot Brain, does a sideline in stand up comedy when he’s not a busy neuroscientist, and the event’s host is Robin Ince, of Infinite Monkey Cage fame, who is also an actor, writer and comedian.

The evening’s event is essentially an on-stage discussion in a theatre space, and regrettably a blatant sales opportunity for the aforementioned book. My first observation as I enter The Dome Studio, and seriously, this event could have been held upstairs in Waterstones, is the trestle table on stage complete with a range of publications and cash register. I initially and naively think that there may be some dark anti-capitalist sub plot to the evening’s events, but as Marjorie and Doris take their place at the till (not their actual names, but you get the picture) I soon realise that essentially I have come into a shop for the evening.

That is not to say that I am not amused during the next hour and fifteen minutes, or at least for the first thirty. Both of our on stage companions are engaging, smart and funny with it. Burnett is not your average Doctor of the mind, and as a result of this evening I would actually quite like to read the book. The main gripe about the discussion event, which was also being recorded for a Guardian online podcast, is that it was beset with technical problems. Ince had to be helped out of his Janet Jackson headset and given a hand mic within the first ten minutes, but half-way through the event both microphones died and two-hundred bodies at £12 a pop were literally calling out to the technicians to do something. As a result, those of us sitting near enough to the technical box heard much in the way of off-stage panic and very little in the way of on-stage amusing observations on the inner workings of the mind.
Still, there’s always the podcast. Oh, yes, right. Perhaps I’ll just seek out Marjorie and buy the book after all.

Author: Dean Burnett
Booking until: This show has now ended its run at Dome Studio

About Craig Hanlon-Smith