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Edinburgh Fringe 2016

Nerd Do Well

Tom Crosbie / PBH Free Fringe

Genre: Comedy, Variety Show

Venue: Hispaniola, Drummond Street


Low Down

Some wonderfully droll, self-deprecating patter from a talented young performer. Expect amazing feats of memory, a test of your mental arithmetic and much amusement.


It’s a Monday lunchtime and Hispaniola is crammed with families, students and the odd representative of the grey pound brigade. But they’re not partaking of the restaurant’s excellent fare. No, they’re licking their lips in anticipation of learning a lot of things they didn’t know they didn’t need to know.

Tom Crosbie is, he confesses, a complete nerd. You have to agree. After all, someone who thinks that being cute with a Rubik’s Cube or having a mathematically interesting algorithm that will help anyone to remember a loved one’s birthday are good chat up routines is unlikely to rush their way to a girl’s heart.

But Tom is nothing if not a trier and is quite determined to show us that, one day, these apparently useless skills could win him the girl of his dreams. Take that memorable mathematical algorithm, for example. Picking a girl at random, he cleverly produces a four by four matrix that adds up every which way to the key number he constructed from the response she gave. It’s an impressive display of numerical dexterity that immediately has his audience scratching their heads in amazement.

Having stretched the audience’s cognitive skills to the limit, he then produces a deck of cards as the lead-in to a series of very nicely executed memory-recall exercises. It’s clever stuff, with his gentle, self-deprecating patter and seemingly shambolic approach hiding the fact that his brain is working overtime to ensure that he can deliver a denouement without appearing to put any effort into so doing. Distraction punchlines flow as he manages some pretty impressive card memory sequence exercises and he certainly grabbed and held the many youngsters in the crowd, several of whom edged their way closer to the stage to try and see how this all worked.

But Crosbie’s forte is probably the Rubik’s Cube. Clearly, he didn’t get out much as a boy because he appears to be able to solve randomly presented cubes in less time than it takes to pour a pint of beer.. Me, well, you’d need a calendar to measure my progress, or lack of it. Yet, here he was, spinning cubes like a bartender spins a cocktail shaker, with the end result inevitably being a “clean” cube with the colours all neatly together on the six sides. Impressive stuff.

However, Crosbie is in danger of becoming a little bit a victim of his own success. Around eighty people in a venue with no seating rake or staging meant that quite a few of us at the back struggled to see at times. And the lack of a throat mike meant he was having to compete with noises from the restaurant and the din from the street outside. Some form of staging and amplification would really enhance what is already an excellent show, part of the growing PBH free or pay what you want Fringe. But this is still a thoroughly recommended hour of patter, memory stunts and Rubik’s Cube manipulation that’s suitable for all ages.