“With material this accessible it’s a wonder I’m not playing the bigger rooms”, Robert Newman self deprecatingly quips, about 20 minutes into his New Theory Of Evolution show. But while it may not be an arena, The Old Market is a decent old barn of a space, and tonight it is sold out, an older crowd testament to his years in the game (as part of Newman & Baddiel and The Mary Whitehouse Experience among other exploits) and his penchant for cerebral and political themes.
Having launched straight in with a pacy recap of some of the preeminent contenders for accepted evolutionary theory, complete with apparently (I admit, I wouldn’t know for sure) advanced scientific jargon, Newman has certainly set the register pretty high; at no point is there a hint of dryness about this show, however. A natural raconteur and a constantly fizzing firecracker of energy, Newman delivers his credible, thoughtful and well-researched material, that draws lines from evolutionary theory to gender politics, class prejudice and European fiscal history, with the free-limbed physicality of Mick Jagger on the Pyramid Stage.
As well as his generous and committed performance style, the show is leavened with touches of the surreal; expertly woven into the set are personal anecdotes, chucklesome impressions (of subjects as varied as Richard Dawkins, Hans Christian Andersen, foreign turkeys, laid-back rats and the polar jetstream) and silly yet poignant ukulele songs, all adding up to a celebration of the misfit. The refreshing combination of facts, laughs and feel-good wisdom here make me feel like my brain has been hosed clean. With his tack-sharp mind, engaging openness and admirable ideals, Robert Newman is one highly evolved individual.