Lord “Comedy” Rutherford [by James Wenley]
Lord Ernest Rutherford hasn’t had his due. No emotional biopic, no sharable internet meme. Sure his face is on our $100 bill, but how many of us have that sort of denomination in our wallets? Father of the nuclear age, but his recognition has been as tiny as the atom he split. No, he hasn’t had his due. Until now.
It is difficult to think of a more unlikely subject to base a comedy character around. But Nic Sampson has the nose, and more importantly, the coiffured mustache, to find comic potential where others might not.
Sampson’s Ernest is a superb showcase for his talents: he blusters and bothers, pulls us up over our lack of physics acumen, but as his lecture unfolds reveals his loveable sweet and charming side. Sampson has excellent rapport with the audience, and his improv and interaction is spot on. At one point he eyes us up, deciding who will get the honour of a becoming an essential part of the show. He gives the microphone to my mate Kristina, and enlists her in making various ridiculous audio contributions throughout (with the occasional assistance of Jennifer Ward-Lealand). Best call of the night Sampson. Go to Everyone can Science, and maybe this can be you too!
There are lots of brainy jokes for the intellectuals in the house. As a stand-up, Sampson is a master of absurd tangents, and this proves especially true in this show. This show could have just been a gag-filled lecture piss-take, and that would have worked well, but what really gives the show its charm is the way that Sampson weaves a ludicrous yet heart-warming love triangle between Ernest, Mary Rutherford, and Lady Science. Sampson has great storytelling acumen, which results in a hugely satisfying ending when those tangents all come together.
In watching it, I realise how little I know about Lord Rutherford. Sampson has meticulously researched Rutherford’s biography, taking us through his life in Nelson, Christchurch, Cambridge and back. He even manages a joke about Rutherford’s university thesis. So meticulous is his research that Sampson goes beyond even the Wikipedia entry in revealing hitherto unknown facets of this great man’s biography.
The show gives you enough full-good factor to have you buzzing for the rest of the night, which I have no doubt I would have done, except for the fact I rushed straight downstairs to see a show about depression.
Sampson needs to embark on a nation-wide lecture circuit forthwith. Everyone can Science is the perfect comic equation. Sampson + Rutherford = Absolute Hilarity. Or in layman’s terms: it’s bloody funny, go.
Ernest Rutherford: Everyone can Science! plays Upstairs at The Basement until 19th September. Details see The Basement.
SEE ALSO: Theatreview.org.nz review by Nic Sampson
And Sharu Delilkan’s review of the show’s 2013 debut.