A few weeks ago I was offered tickets to Brainiac Live! on stage to review, plus a competition. Yesterday, we managed to go to see it for ourselves. As it said that it wasn’t suitable for under four and a half year olds, we took one of MG’s school friends and his mum along.
Firstly, the theatre is very easy to find. It’s a short walk from Piccadilly Circus tube station and very visible. Our tickets were reserved at the box office, which was easily accessible. Getting there from Oxfordshire with two six year olds was not a problem, which is a very good start.
We were in the dress circle rather than on the same floor as the stage but this gave us a great view and as far as I could see there was no bad seating. The theatre was quite full, giving a good audience experience.
The show manages to pack a fair amount into an hour, so most people should find a few things that they particularly like. There were four “brainiacs” on stage, although “Brainiac Ned” was the lead and did everything with the others as support. He started with an experiment to see what materials it was possible to run through. The children found this hilarious, especially in any part where he might have got slightly hurt or fell over!
There was then a section on Mondegreens, including words to the whole of O Fortuna. There was a 12 volt electrified fence, lots of dry ice, and igniting balloons full of different gasses. They showed the famous selective attention test, used fire extinguishers as propellers and had a Brainiac vs Audience air bazooka competition as the finale. [Don’t follow any of those links if you don’t know what I’m talking about and want a surprise!]
This promotional video is an accurate representation of the show we saw (other than the audience)
I asked the two small children what they thought about the show and they thought it was awesome. Mighty Girl’s friend (boy, aged six) loves science things and came out of the theatre talking non-stop about all the explosions and all the different things he say. Mighty-Girl is quieter and not as keen on loud noises but she also enjoyed the whole thing, including the explosions. She did comment on the fact there was only one girl though. They both wanted to go back and see it again straight away.
The show is an hour long with no break, and is on two or three times a day. Because of this, it is very self-contained with stage clean ups happening as they went along, which meant a few ‘filler’ sections on screen when that was happening.
What didn’t work for me: The on-screen sections, especially the “Cambridge University” scrambled word study (it’s fake.) I’m the kind of person who already knows what a Mondegreen is and has done the selective attention test, and seen the ‘scrambled word study’ before, and who checks every round robin e-mail against Snopes. I guess I don’t really watch the show either, but I like the idea of having fun with
science exploding things. The first five minutes seemed to be taken up with a voice over telling everyone how brilliant the next hour was going to be, which to me can only lead to disappointment, especially as most of the explosions were so obviously controlled (of course they have to be controlled, but so obviously?!)
What did work for me: I like liquid nitrogen. Some of the things they did using it were genuinely interesting (the balloon and the bottle, if you’ve seen the show.) The air bazookas filled with smoke were quite amazing to watch, and I was even hit with a blast of air up in the dress circle. The second half an hour was a lot more fun overall. The children were entranced by the whole show, and even the train being delayed and taking over two hours to get home didn’t bother them too much because they were happy.
Would I recommend Brainiac Live? Yes, if you’re within easy reach of London and enjoy the TV show. It’s something different to see in the school break, a show for children that most children will enjoy.
Disclaimer: We were given four tickets for our choice of Brainiac Live show in return for this review. All travel and sundry expenses were not compensated. Pictures are promotional shots and copyright their respective owners.