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Review: Debbie Zukerman, ‘Science with Raz’ at Factory Theatre

By Jerome Studdy

Her logic isn’t sound, her procedures don’t always meet lab safety guidelines, her experiments don’t quite go to plan, but all her equipment comes neatly wrapped in boxes, “because science is a gift”. Raz is a zany, kooky woman in STEM who brings all her favourite Sciences to life on stage. This one person comedy show by Debbie Zukerman thrusts the bumbling incompetence of her character Raz into the light as she fails to make slime, toothpaste, anti-gravity, and lava. Plus, if you ask the right question, she might even demonstrate where babies come from.

Zukerman is to be congratulated on creating a wonderfully dorky show that champions the science experiments adored by primary school students the world over. Even the entirely adult audience of last night’s performance ooh’ed and aah’ed when things bubbled, or frothed, or floated around the room. This child-like engagement was even more rewarding when the experiments were a flop and the audience cheered anyway. This was particularly fortunate as most of the experiments flopped.

Perhaps one of the hardest things about watching Raz was figuring out whether the blunders were intentional or not. Throughout some of the performance there were hiccups and errors that seemed to result from a lack of rehearsal or strategy. This disrupted the comedy of errors because the audience were no longer sure whether failed experiments were deliberately failed, and whether that was the intended comedy or not. A few more runs of the show will surely iron out these kinks and improve the comedic timing.

Science with Raz is also a show that would benefit greatly from the addition of constant background music. The much dampened, intimate space of the Terminal at Factory Theatre meant that any applause from the audience died immediately and an imposing, awkward silence remained. Where the audience are currently set at ease by Raz launching chocolate covered pretzels at them with a mini catapult; background music could do this work for her, and the audience would perhaps feel more ready to engage with the show. That being said, the decision for Raz to interact directly with the tech team, telling them when to turn lights on, sounds down, or find a power outlet was very entertaining and a great addition to the show.

Overall, the show has potential to be very engaging and wildly entertaining, if only it had a common thread or commentary. Zukerman makes a joke about the battle faced by women in STEM to achieve recognition. This moment in the show was absolutely brilliant because it was using the comedic scientific platform to comment on a real issue. This may be an issue of personal taste, but if Raz’s science experiments became more than just fun gags, and started to challenge an audience, I believe Zukerman would have an impeccable show. Another alternative would be the inclusion of actual fun facts or scientific information. If you’ve already successfully got a room of adults gawking at a beaker of foaming mess, why not magnify that juvenile bliss and give them some interesting knowledge to take home and share with family or friends?

These criticisms aside, Science with Raz is a thoroughly enjoyable show with a finale . . . unlike anything I’ve seen before. If you head along to this show, volunteer as an audience assistant and get involved with the experiments on stage! I’m pretty sure you’ll be in safe hands.

Image Supplied

All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.


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