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Ernest Rutherford: Everyone Can Science! - review

Ernest Rutherford: Everyone Can Science! - review

Solo comedy shows are often built around the idea that the comedian is a vile person and the audience is busy hiding their own personal vileness so (ha-ha-ha) what a gas that someone is confessing to theirs on stage. Then along comes a thoroughly likeable chap like Nic Sampson who builds his show somewhat nerdily around a national hero and still manages to make it funny and insightful.

The conceit of Everyone Can Science! is that due to some kind of scheduling mix-up the audience has stumbled into a complex and arcane lecture given by non other than the possibly immortal Ernest Rutherford. Once it becomes clear that the people in attendance are hazy about details such as the atomic weight of helium, Rutherford abandons his notes and begins to regale us with the globe-spanning adventure of how he came to be the first man to split the atom.

There is a romantic core to this absurd and often-hilarious story as Rutherford is torn between his two loves – his wife Mary and his “mistress” science. Historical fact is freely mixed with ludicrous detours such as Rutherford pursuing Albert Einstein onto the Titanic.

The show leans heavily on audience participation and it’s a testament to Sampson’s improvisation skills, amiability – and balls – that he makes it work even when the front row guinea pigs leave him stranded. An evening with Ernest Rutherford is hugely fun, surprisingly sweet and peppered with enough well selected scientific and historical facts to send you scurrying to Wikipedia afterwards. Perfect for a first date.

The Basement to September 19. 

Theatre