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Helen Pain continues her review of the Live Entertainment at the UK Games Expo 2018. Go back and read her Escape Your Deathtrap: Live Performances at UK Games Expo Part 1 if you haven’t already! 


…3 down, 3 more to go – would the events at UK Games Expo just keep getting better?

*Spoiler alert – err, yeah!*


You Can’t Polish a Nerd – UK Games Expo Live Event (Saturday)

What is the difference between a geek and a nerd? Tom Crosbie provided an answer, partly through his wonderful show title at UK Games Expo, but mostly by demonstrating his quirky ability to make mathematics look cool (no mean feat I can assure you). Being that nerds like to achieve adulation through their knowledge, Crosbie set out to wow the audience with his intellect and superb comic timing. And he did not disappoint!  

I’ll confess right now that I thought this show would turn out to be just an hour long lecture on numbers. I had good reason to be suspicious: Crosbie walked on stage in formal attire (shirt, tie and a hideous mustard yellow waistcoat) to deliver a speech full of statistics, looking every inch the nervous supply teacher thrown headfirst into an unruly class. It transpired that it was all a ruse to lull the audience into a false sense of security. Crosbie presented us with the nerd persona we assumed he would be and then morphed into a confident comedian who could do amazing feats, which included memorising the order of an entire deck of playing cards, and solving Rubik’s cubes in mere seconds with his lightning fast fingers.

The genius of this show was how Crosbie engaged and then rewarded his audience. With remembering the order of the playing cards, for example, he took time to build anticipation by talking us through the science behind it, giving facts about visualisation and cognitive memorisation, and then he delivered a satisfying conclusion by guessing every card correctly. It seems disingenuous to call his demonstrations ‘tricks’, but that was how each was presented to us – there was even a little “ta dah” after each one, though thankfully he refrained from giving us jazz hands. We were never made to feel inferior to his knowledge; only empowered by it. And when it came to the grand finale he really did save the best trick until last (which I will definitely not spoil because I urge you to see it for yourself – know that it involved many more Rubik’s cubes). I’m confident the entire audience left feeling smarter than when we came into UK Games Expo, and satisfied.


Bonus point: Rubik’s cube art.

Damage taken: That waistcoat!


Live Pandemic – Gaming UK Games Expo Live Event (Saturday)

Being well and truly bitten by the board-gaming bug, I decided to participate in this show having no prior knowledge of it or what to expect (like I mentioned in previous articles, I’m a complete noob). Pandemic is unlike most board games in that the gameplay is based on cooperation rather than on competitiveness. Through the combined effort of all the players – in this case, a celebrity panel – the goal is to discover all four cures to the four life-threatening viruses before any of several game-losing conditions are reached. Already this was an engaging premise.

What I had not bargained for was the added extras that made the gameplay more interesting to the casual attendees in the audience at UK Games Expo. These included the juxtaposition of having the uber-intelligent and methodical Tom Crosbie from You Can’t Polish a Nerd playing alongside the loud and spontaneous Jollyboat brothers on the celebrity panel (more on them later).  Ed Jollyboat, in particular, often forgot that this was a family-friendly show and uttered several expletives at the board, much to the audience’s amusement and Crosbie’s discomfort.  Comedian James Cook was a strong mediator, guiding the players in their decision-making and reciting fun facts about countries in between gameplay. He also insisted on playing a tune that best suited the capital cities they landed on (I have to say that EastEnders for London would NOT have been my pick).

The funniest inclusion, however, happened every time an outbreak occurred. From behind a screen appeared a man wearing only striped briefs and a bear’s head, who ran up and down the aisles with party poppers and confetti to celebrate the impending end of the world. He was the weirdest, funniest thing I saw at the entire UK Games Expo (I think Azzy would disagree with me though, ha ha!).

The game ended in defeat as the viruses raged over the globe, but you’d never have guessed it from the audience’s cheerful mood – we were amazed to find we’d been participating for almost two hours! I suppose time flies when you’re partying with an Outbreak man-bear hybrid.

Pandemic Live UK Games Expo

Photo: Adam Smith, Pandemic Live

Bonus point: Man-bear madness!

Damage taken: EastEnders theme tune.


Jollyboat – UK Games Expo Live Event (Saturday)

What better way to round off an evening of live events at UK Games Expo than to go to a gig, especially if the music is heavily pirate themed. Enter: Jollyboat!

Having already seen the Jollyboat brothers play Live Pandemic, Azzy and I had an idea of their style of humour and knew what we were letting ourselves in for. Or so we thought (once again I was to be more than pleasantly surprised)!  

Billed as the UK’s best comedy-pirate-geek-rock duo on the UK Games Expo official web site, it wasn’t a stretch to assume that the whole gig would consist solely of swashbuckler puns. Yet, in the first five minutes they had parodied snippets of at least fifteen pop songs, altering classic lines to “my hearties go on” and “I kissed a gull and I liked it”. Ed played guitar with intensity as Tommy danced around the stage, swinging his balloon sword at the audience and shouting “give me an arghhhh”. Surely this could not be the format for the next fifty five minutes? They were bound to run out of their seemingly limitless energy sooner than that.

I should not have feared. The montage was only the aperitif. Being real-life brothers, Ed and Tommy took every opportunity to take the mick out of each other and their tastes in music, comedy and all things geeky, which led to some brilliantly written songs about Harry Potter poetry and love expressed through computer key symbols.  The best tune in my opinion was their take on Parklife by Blur: instead of shouting the song title in unison the audience had to find a rhyming word that matched the description Tommy was reading out. Only at an Expo could you get an audience shouting “half-life” within seconds of hearing the clue.

The mood was so jubilant that the brothers received a well-deserved standing ovation after a hilariously staged encore, and a verbal promise that we would all accompany them at their own convention. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better my evening was made complete when I received a parting gift in the form of a sweaty hug from Tommy and Ed (who by the way are both gorgeous). Yep, I’m sold. See you at Jollycon, boy.

Jolly Boat pirate UK Games Expo

Photo: Helen Pain with Jolly Boat pirates!

Bonus point: Hand in hand go their…half-life!

Damage taken: Too short a show. We want more!


Helen Pain – a true theatre geek giving it a go at UK Games Expo

Follow Helen the Scribbler on Twitter @HelsyPain

Escape Your Deathtrap: Live Entertainment at UK Games Expo Part 1

The Unexpected Benefits of Being a Theatre Geek – by Helen Pain

Our Epic Review of 6 Games Showcased At UK Games Expo

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