Test Tube Cabaret of Curiosities

Ziegfeld and Paradise's Cabaret of Curiosities at the Cube cinema in Bristol.

Professor Crumpling and the Mysteries of the Leguminous Æther

April 2013

Rather unusually, I was asked to do cabaret. Something about once applying electricity to gherkins.

A local regular cabaret event was looking for new acts in a science-themed evening. As I have my own lab coat and glasses, I was a natural choice.

Extracting sunlight from fruit

Extracting sunlight from fruit

It's possible to extract electricity from citrus fruit with the aid of small metal hooks. What few people realise is that lemons give yellow electricity, oranges orange and limes, as shown here, of course give green.

Igor winds up the variac

My charming assistant, Igor, applies More Volts! to a reluctant gherkin. That'll teach it.


Gherkin holder, made from two forks and mirrored Perspex sheet

Although I didn't have the laser on stage with me shame!, I did find it very useful for prop-making.

These are the stands in mirrored Perspex for holding the glowing gherkins. An electric pickle experiment involves mains electricity, dripping vinegar, heat, smoke and often a bit of fire. Just mechanically, it's quite tricky to make a good gherkin stand. I needed nine of them for the grand finale. The forks are where the gherkin is skewered and also the elecrical contacts.

Fruit display rack

The electrical fruit experiment in the show needed a rack of more forks as lemon holders.

This is quite a robust box, covered in woodgrain laminate for that '70s hi-fi feeling. It also enclosed an Arduino microcontroller and a rack of electrical relays.

The core of the show was the gherkin parade, which relies on a variable transformer called a variac. Although my variac is quite compact, it needed to be seen on stage and so I made this large prop display box. The handwheel, following Graeme Obree's lead, is made from an old washing machine.

I am, incidentally, still available for other bookings...