Bang Goes the Theory Live Review

18 04 2011

Bang Goes the Theory, BBC One’s flagship popular science programme, has returned to the Edinburgh International Science Festival for a second year. I saw the live version of the TV show today and, whilst I must admit to a vested interest*, I really enjoyed the show.

As I have mentioned in a previous post when assessing shows I ask three questions: where’s the science? who’s the audience? and what’s the story?

Where’s the Science?

Just as in the TV show this live version covered a mixture of topics ranging from the whimsical (which melted sweet makes the best glue?) through topical (the effects of methane and beef production on climate change) to the more esoteric (metal salts and flame colour). There were plenty of factoids for us to chew on. I didn’t realise, for instance, that 95% of the methane produced by a cow comes out of its mouth or that we unwittingly eat 1kg of insects each year in the everyday food we eat. Overall I felt that this show contained lots of science and that most of that science had been sensitively and accurately dealt with.

Most topics were paired with a single demonstration and vice versa. I would have liked to have seen more of the format used by the TV show where a selection of demonstrations leads you towards a bigger picture but perhaps in a show of this scale, with novice live science presenters, that was too much to coordinate.

Who’s the audience?

The TV show audience is “parents watching with their children”. This is a hard balance to strike as it is difficult to keep such a large age range satisfied both in scientific content and presentation style. The live show aims to serve the same audience and did the job very well.

The quality of the script (which had been heavily revised since the first shows in London) and the way it was presented (by three excellent and experienced TV presenters) meant that the show managed to cater to everyone. In an hour-long free show (that ran over by 10mins), as part of a large science festival, located right in the heart of Edinburgh on a Saturday afternoon there were plenty of other attractions to tempt the audience out of the show early but everyone chose to stay right until the end.

Because of the one demo-one explanation style and because few graphics were used it did mean that explanations were almost exclusively verbal. This show has so far been presented at two science festivals. If they are planning to take the show into city centres and ambush the public, as they did on the last tours, it will be interesting to see how a less motivated and science literate audience react to the presentation style. But in the shows that I saw at both The Big Bang in London and here at the Edinburgh Science Festival the audiences really enjoyed it.

What’s the story?

Story is what let the show down the first time I saw this in London. There was no thread to link the sections, no reason, other than to see the TV presenters live, for the show. This has now totally changed. This show feels like a fast-paced, hour-long, live episode of the Bang Goes the Theory programme. It covers a wide range of topics that are interestingly explored and threaded together skillfully. All the work that has been done on the script has really paid off.


As a science presenter myself I was proud to sit and watch this show and I would recommend it to anyone with or without a prior interest in either science or the TV programme. BBC Learning have produced a live science show that has raised the bar for everyone working in this field. In content, style and quality the show is streets ahead of the other big touring live science shows.

The stars of the show the last time I saw this were the stars of the show and nothing here has changed. Jem, Dallas and especially Liz do an amazing job as they are all relatively inexperienced at live presenting. They are all confident, personable, believeable and likeable on stage. (You can see why they were chosen to front the BBC’s flagship family science programme!) I hope they can keep up the quality and freshness of the performances that I saw as they progress through the run.

The whole team at BBC Learning should be congratulated as they have set a new benchmark for presentations in our fledgling industry. If you get a chance to see the shows you really should and you can take anyone you like with you as I’m confident they will really enjoy it as well.

*My company Science Shows for Schools, wrote, produced and presented the first three series of the Bang live shows LINK.




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