In the historic 1st floor boardroom of the Science Exchange a single candle stands on the central table, flanked by a smaller table with measuring flasks and beakers and a blank flip chart.
Michael Faraday (Bernard Caleo) enters from 1848, in a grey morning coat and cravat, to deliver his Christmas lecture to the Royal Institute of London on the Chemical History of the Candle from that same year, or a version of it. Acknowledging that he is now talking to an audience living in a more scientifically advanced world, the science is peppered with references to modern technology but, for the most part, focuses on the science of the seemingly simple candle.
The show, which is part theatre, part lecture, has a good flow, working through the easier basic ideas such as what are candles made of to the more technical concepts such as capillary action and the anatomy of a flame. There is a good mix of practical examples using multiple candles, large charts drawn during the show and some simple audience participation.
Caleo delivers the lecture with a good clear voice and an English accent in keeping with the character and the acoustics of the room ensure that he can do this without amplification. There is a good energy and pace ensuring that the concepts are understood but not drawn out, something school teachers and university lectures could learn from. There is good use of lighting and a change in voice to represent Faraday’s mentor Sir Humphry Davy.
The show is rounded out by returning to Faraday’s philosophical background by drawing parallels between the new understanding of the science of the candle and nature as a whole.
Improvements could be made in the venue set up to ensure the audience can easily see the experiments. Whilst the table used for most of the experiments is raised, a raised stage would place it above the head level of the audience.
This show is a must for anyone who has ever had an interest in science, anyone that wants to learn something new and anyone who has ever asked why. Unlike many other fringe shows, this is also suitable for children and may be a great way to get them interested in science.
Reviewed by Jade Kops, special guest Fringe Critic, Glam Adelaide
Venue: Boardroom, The Science Exchange (RiAus), Exchange Pl, Adelaide
Season: 7:15pm, Sat 10 Mar 2012
Tickets: Adults $20, Bank SA Support Act $10, Concession $15
Bookings: Fringetix 1300-FRINGE (1300-374643), their outlets, or online