Amy Tobias’ deliciously eccentric quasi-performance lecture, Quantum Physics of My Heart, blends masterful comic timing, suitably underwhelming science demonstrations and a whole lot of heart to dissect the ways we make sense of the world. And be a good Jew.
Armed with delightfully shite powerpoint slides, philosophy courtesy of Destiny’s Child and a Peperami, Amy Tobias folds a hugely entertaining and quietly touching autobiographical coming-of-age story into a series of quasi-serious scientific principals in her debut solo show, Quantum Physics of My Heart.
Tobias has a formidable performance quality and seems extremely well-versed in clowning. There’s a delicious eccentricity to her physicality, entertaining unpredictability to her writing and remarkable confidence in her delivery that makes it near impossible to not hang off every word.
The show’s been designed with the 90’s crowd in mind – the nostalgic bangers just keep coming (with lyrics often woven into the text), and audience party bags/’equipment for experiments’ treat us to sweets we thought we’d never see again. Soundbites from authority figures in Tobias’ life (you assume they’re all real) sound wonderfully reluctant and phoney. The form is (smartly) usually always undermining the content, with this particular production decision painting a lovely picture of bolshy Amy shoving a mic in her old science teacher’s face and holding him hostage until he’s read from her script in exactly the way she wants.
Tobias possesses the ability of the best stand-ups, to identify (and poke fun of) nuggets of truth that everyone identifies with but perhaps hadn’t realised were shared experiences until now. The writing is consistently insightful and very, very funny (‘maybe I should call my dad and get collected’ is almost certainly my favourite line, it just tickled me greatly…), but sometimes lacks the confidence that the delivery has in bucketloads. You don’t need to explicitly tell us you ‘hadn’t tried cannabis’, for example – because you already just did: through the hilarious delivery of an assertion to the contrary. We equally don’t need to be told that you’ve just quoted Destiny’s Child – most of us get it already, and those who didn’t pick up on it don’t need to know. In sum, our performer’s so adept with delivering subtext (or merely inferring there’s more to her words than it may seem) that brief moments like this could very easily be shaved off – to ensure the writing feels as punchy and self-assured as everything else.
It’s no big deal, but the show could perhaps also just watch out for introduction of party bag props occasionally leading to loss in momentum. There’s times when I’d agree it was necessary to step out of anecdote and break flow, but occasionally energy drops when it perhaps isn’t necessary for it to do so. A throwaway ‘glow sticks out, guys’ (rather than conforming to the established structure of a lighting change and an explanation of how to get them to glow – the audience knows all this…) would be more than sufficient.
The show’s otherwise structured masterfully, though. After lots of ludicrously enjoyable silliness, you begin to crave a moment with real heart (where it takes itself seriously just for a moment). To the writer and director’s credit, the moment occurs at exactly the right time. An impressively handled change in tone, featuring a somewhat daring and actually quite confrontational betrayal of an audience member’s trust (effective in its uncomfortableness), suddenly turns the conversation towards consent and power dynamics. The handled sensitively and wipes the smile off your face – albeit temporarily – and it’s a very important moment for a show which’d otherwise feel a little too trivial.
All in all, Quantum Physics of My Heart blends masterful comic timing and modern-day clowning, hilariously underwhelming science demonstrations and real heart too – to dissect the ways we make sense of the world. There’s certainly Shit Theatre influences at play, but Tobias has caved out her own distinctive style: a surefire mix of anarchy, self-declamation, eccentricity and honesty that’s very difficult to not get behind.