Bringing a reworking of last year’s show Genius to this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, Simon Evans proclaims that he has no issue with ‘digging the same furrow’. Genius 2.0 asks what the future of our society is. Are we regressing in terms of intelligence and creativity?
This is a show of comparison through the ages, from drinking laws to the Guinness Book of World Records. It’s about how our lives have become more restricted as the years have passed. Though academic in his tone, this doesn’t feel like a lecture. Evans is surprisingly able to keep his large audience on the same page as him, despite his flowery language and analytic, black-and-white approach to assessing the problems he raises.
Evans’ point is glisteningly clear, but it’s hard to fully invest in the idea that our society is less intelligent (or less intelligence-orientated) than it was forty years ago. Yes, there is certainly more of a focus on mind-numbing reality television and a vacuous idea of what constitutes beauty (often consisting of botox injections and lip fillers), but aspects of our society are arguably thriving as strongly as ever, in areas including but not limited to science, philosophy and literature.
I’d feel a little uncomfortable, as a twenty-year-old university student, to be sat in this comic’s audience if I didn’t know he had teenage children himself. It is these anecdotes about his kids’ experiences, inspirations and education that allow us to ascertain that Evans isn’t simply having a go at the youth of today.
As the show goes on, Evans allows himself to exist at the same level as his audience, sharing his irksome experiences with ageing, from thinning hair to forgetfulness. But the set piece of the show is one that rings in the ear long after Evans has left the stage. The downfall of our society, as Evans see it, is the fact it is shrouded in apathy. Our country is lead by someone who studied at Oxford, yet graduated in a 2:2 in Geography. Someone who bends over backwards, surely almost to the point of snapping, at a slight gust of wind.
Simon Evans’ outlook on the state of society today is strangely motivating rather than depressing. The powers that be may be failing us, but we each have the opportunity to flourish however we want to, despite this unsettling prognosis.