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600 People review at Summerhall, Edinburgh – ‘fascinating performance-lecture’

Alexander Kelly in 600 People. Photo: Richard Kenworthy Alexander Kelly in 600 People. Photo: Richard Kenworthy

The performance-lecture is fairly familiar as a format but few are as entertaining as Alexander Kelly’s amiable solo show encompassing life, the universe and everything. Back in 2006, Kelly spoke to astrophysicist Simon Goodwin about his work at SETI, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. These ongoing conversations are the basis for this enjoyable gallop through human history. Using the Voyager mission, launched in 1977 and still carrying its messages of greeting through interstellar space, as a starting point, Kelly discusses humanity, evolution, time, language, and ponders the likelihood of us being alone in the universe.

Kelly is an affable, relaxed presence on stage. Like the best teachers, he has a way of unpacking complex subjects and making them digestible. Asks huge questions in a modest way, 600 People is crammed with ideas about people and their place in the universe. We are but a blip – a speck upon a speck.

It’s not particularly theatrical. There are some animations projected on a screen and a few objects on a table that Kelly uses to illustrate the things he’s talking about, but the material so fascinating and his casual, conversational style so agreeable that this doesn’t ever feel like an issue – in its own quiet way this show is full of wonder.


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Fascinating, question-packed performance-lecture exploring our place in the universe