Hey Hey 16K

Two stand-up (not in the comedic sense) guys riffing on Doctor Who and the origins of programming doesn’t sound scintillating. And it isn’t. But there’s a warming charm about a musical geekathon: MJ Hibbett and Steve are what I imagine Brian Cox’s band sounded like (except I never listened to them).

It has the potential to illuminate a colourful past of switches and LEDs and inspire a new generation of technological tinkerers.

Never before has there been such a prodigious bandying of the word ‘titting’ (not as creepy as it seems), or so shameless a use of the hula hoop vortex. Awkward writhing (sorry, dancing) and dodgy dad jokes can’t get more enjoyable. Beer, ladies and Allen keys are the sujets du jour, but this isn’t off-puttingly laddish.

In fact, there are moments of real tenderness: 20 Things To Do Before You’re 30 has Steve reaching for a higher, softer register, and a slightly overworked rendition of We Are Entirely Normal clearly taps into the duo’s real past concerns. Very different is the sing-a-long for MJ Hibbett’s undeniably catchy Youtube hit, a perfect, rollicking resolution.

For a show that confronts the space/time paradox, Hey Hey 16K is surprisingly one- dimensional when it comes to duets. The pair have brawny lungs that can belt out a tune with the force of a Welsh male choir, but the lack of any harmonising means there’s nothing keeping the audience hopeful of any true exposition.

Programming and poetry are slammed together in a thoughtful song (both convey complicated ideas with clarity). Don’t go thinking this is carefully considered stuff however. An audience member grumbled that he only counted 15 of the 20 things he expected in the aforementioned song. But that’s missing the point of this joyously simple, free pub party.

Actually, I think this would do exceptionally well as a kids’ show (with less ‘titting’ of course): the knowing immaturity of the quick back-and-forths combined with an intelligent look at computing’s progression (from Ada Lovelace to Kraftwerk) would go down a treat in a Year 7 history class for children who’ve just picked up a micro:bit. Hey Hey 16K has the potential to illuminate a colourful past of switches and LEDs and inspire a new generation of technological tinkerers. 

Reviews by Jake A Ellamen

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Performances

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The Blurb

A new two-man musical from the team behind Dinosaur Planet, Moon Horse and Total Hero Team, featuring songs, dad jokes, time travel, ZX Spectrums, Ada Lovelace, beer, tap dancing and Steve in the role of a lifetime: MJ Hibbett! 'Anyone who likes MJ Hibbett will have a much nicer life' (Robin Ince). 'Amazing! Like two drunken dads picking up a guitar at a party!' (Radio 1). 'MJ Hibbett – Top of the Pops!' (Eddie Argos).

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