Africa Clockwise: a convenient way of laughing at yourself

By Lesley Stones 4 November 2011

Surprisingly often, the best way to deal with a crisis is simply to have a good laugh about it. Lighten up a little, have a chuckle, let the tension dissipate, then figure out a solution. LESLEY STONES relished comedian Mark Sampson’s take on global warming in his new show, Africa Clockwise.

It’s about time too. We all do our little bit, but climate change is a dreadfully dour topic that tends to bring out a holier-than-thou attitude in people who think their little bit is a little bit bigger than yours. Up yours, Sampson says, defending anyone feeling guilty because they’ve caught the new disease of the suburban middle-classes, Climate Change Syndrome.

Samson is an extremely bright, quirky character with a sense of humour forged from a British upbringing and honed in his adopted Cape Town. That creates a compelling cross of intelligent, dry wit and keen observation with a delicious touch of irony. In layman’s terms, he’s bloody funny.

He owns the stage beautifully, striding around and interacting with the audience in a setting full of eco-friendly gadgets like a solar cooker and a wooden surfboard. Sampson talks openly about his own life including a battle with depression, which doesn’t sound funny until his wicked wit makes it hilarious. He’s a lively, engaging character who at times seems to be talking to himself and mulling over ideas in an exploratory way, as much as addressing the audience. It doesn’t detract from the presentation, just emphasises that global warming is something we’re all feeling our way through.

The material ranges widely as he shoots off with entertaining anecdotes before coming back to his core theme. This is comedy with a purpose and a serious message behind the humour, but it’s never dull or preachy. It just makes you think, as well as laugh. He’s also perfected the art of being nicely naughty without ever resorting to vulgarity. Sampson is a great a great ad libber and even the audience participation in a quiz show is handled so well that nobody feels the usual embarrassment about being called on stage.

If his tales are true, Sampson is planning to take his family on a two-year tour around Africa, clockwise as the title suggests, to visit more than 30 countries. He’s heading off in a bright green 10-ton truck,  and will take the eco-friendly gadgets he’s amassing around the continent. He’s also hoping to show his kids how people are often happier without all the trappings of our greedy vulturine society. They may not have electricity, but they don’t have anti-depressants either, he quips.

It’s stand-up comedy at its finest, a man with something to say and a fabulous way of saying it.

Africa Clockwise runs at Sandton’s Old Mutual Theatre on the Square until 19 November. DM



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