The Rap Guide to Evolution ****

Gilded Balloon Teviot Wine Bar, 5 – 31 August 2009

Reviewed for the British Theatre Guide

Baba Brinkman believes. Believes Creationism is “dead wrong”; believes the whole human race share common ancestors in Africa, and that therefore he can legitimately call himself African; believes that rap is an appropriate vehicle for explaining Charles Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection and its many derivatives. You can see it in his eyes, and in the earnest way he bounces on the balls of his feet when he assures us a point is “true, true, true!”

Here’s the justification: the weirdness that is a rap show about evolutionary biology is like the weirdness that is the first appearance of a random genetic mutation. If the mutation turns out to beneficial, it should survive to the next generation; if the show turns out to be popular, Brinkman should be back with another next year (and possibly get laid into the bargain). If not…

The show covers a vast tract of material, explaining natural selection in the first ten minutes and proceeding swiftly onto evolutionary psychology, social Darwinism, cultural creationism and, most importantly, the consequences of said theories for the way we choose to live our lives. Brinkman’s many personas, from gangsta rapper to pot-smoking hippie via various members of his own extended family, keep the material from becoming too dry or lofty. And while the choruses in some of the early numbers feel a bit rhythmically squiffy, his delivery flows smoothly and clearly (even when faced with unwieldy scientific terms like “eukaryotic”).

All the science in the show has been peer-reviewed and guaranteed accurate (a condition set by the funding body). And now the reviews are rolling in, the artistic aspect is peer-reviewed as well – part of a creative process Brinkman suggests is itself analogous to natural selection, as he repeats over and over in the penultimate number: “Performance, feedback, revision”.

Written by Baba Brinkman


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