Nic Sampson excels despite all kinds of hurdles in 'Has Fallen Down A Well'


The sheer size of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival gives power to its patrons to take a chance and find some hidden gems. This amusing hour from Nic Sampson definitely rates as a satisfying treat begging to be discovered, boasting a deceptively complex blend of stand-up and theatre.
First, a word about Sampson’s venue: he’s forced to make the best of a bad situation here, competing with “the loudest show of the festival”. He’s up against it from the outset, with any pressure to win over his audience compounded by thumping dance music and the not-so-faint sounds of hollering and cheering elsewhere in The Tuxedo Cat. It’s worth mentioning, as Sampson deserves a ton of credit for being able to rise to the challenge, the likeable Kiwi able to engage an audience in spite of the venue handicap.
As for the show itself, it’s a fun affair, Sampson telling stories and teasing out amusingly quirky observations from otherwise mundane situations. He’s a total natural on stage, boasting the cool, calm demeanour of a veteran comic. Sampson occasionally ramps up the energy, though, at one point even committing to an energetic display of capoeira bound to bewilder most audiences. Still, it’s stuff like this that simultaneously works to endear and engage all the same.
Sampson has a knack for tickling audiences with his brand of stand-up, rather than inducing big belly laughs. The most enjoyable portion of the show appears late in the piece, the initial premise rendered suddenly and surprisingly relevant. Sampson temporarily trades in stand-up for a spot of theatre, traversing surreal territory. This shake-up in proceedings results in some of the best moments of the show and it’s nice to know the initial set-up wasn’t completely arbitrary. If anything, Sampson could stand to explore his predicament – that is, being trapped down a well – more throughout the hour.
He clearly has a superb range as a comedic performer to make it work, his acting chops regularly utilised as part of his stand-up. As things are at the moment, the show shifts gears rather emphatically and this could ultimately prove too jarring for some punters, even if it’s all tied together nicely when everything is all said and done. Still, Sampson at least takes a chance and that’s commendable. Again, the show really does hit its stride when Sampson flexes his creativity, departing from traditional joke telling.
Overall, Sampson demonstrates great potential here, staging a rock-solid hour of comedy complete with neat detours and surprises.
By Nick Mason