Ernest Rutherford entertaining with a passion for science

Ernest Rutherford Everyone Can Science! is part of the Taranaki Arts Festival.

Ernest Rutherford Everyone Can Science! is part of the Taranaki Arts Festival.

Ernest Rutherford Everyone Can Science
Crystal Palace
Saturday August 19
Reviewed by Jo Hills.


It was  hard to tell the real star of Ernest Rutherford Everyone Can Science.

It's technically a one man show, but some of the audience also had their moment of onstage glory. Talented solo actor Nic Sampson craftily enticed unsuspecting theatre viewers into playing out roles alongside him. They proved to be very entertaining performers.

Fearing embarrassment in such an interactive situation, many patrons avoid the front row. However, nowhere was a safe place to sit when Sampson started eyeing up prospects. Even the back row was a target.

The chosen ones stepped up to the challenge in the true spirit of this tongue-in-cheek production. They swept up, played hide and seek on the Titanic, sang, danced and provided numerous sound effects. It all created a lot of fun and laughter.

Meanwhile, as the character of Rutherford, Sampson bubbled and fizzed with a passion for science. It was akin to imagining  Rutherford high on some illegal substance. With an infectious energy,  he soon also had a papier-mache model of a volcano  impressively bubbling, fizzing and emitting a ring of smoke.

The play revolved around Rutherford holding a physics lecture. The audience were the students sitting in front of a large blackboard. He scribbled almost indecipherable equations, theories and words across the board and  befuddled us with scientific terminology. We were then chastised for our incompetence.

Despite this, we quickly warmed to him, especially as he confided that he had two loves - his wife and science. His wife Mary was brilliantly portrayed by a broom and scarf. As biographical details were revealed we heard a version of Rutherford's life story, but Sampson admitted it might not have all been quite true. In fact, it could actually have been rather fictional and misleading, but we were assured it was so much more exciting than the truth.

Left to sort out fact from fiction we relished it all. However  some, especially the youngsters, went away a little confused and may well now have a rather distorted picture of the famous man on our $100 note.

 - Stuff

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