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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

MISSING LINKS (article first published : 2006-07-14)

One enters the Catalina Theatre to a large backdrop depicting the time line from 6 million to 4 million to 2 million years to the present day at the top, the evolution of Chimp Cousins to Missing Links to Homo Ergester to Modern Man along the bottom and across the centre of the backdrop is the road from Cape Town (Stop 1) via Beaufort West (Stop 2), Bloemfontein (Stop 3), Down Town Johannesburg (Stop 4) and Cresta (Stop 5) to the final destination, along the R512, the Sterkfontein Caves (Stop 6).

A visit to these caves inspired the British Mark Sampson to contemplate a South African future for his two children and the basis of his very funny stand up comedy routine, Missing Links. His daughter, whom he delivered, and his adopted son feature strongly in his narrative.

Mark’s routine is well thought out and focused with the - almost mandatory - comments to the audience whom he selects at random at the start of the evening to obtain a rapport with them. This succeeds extremely well, particularly as he is very humorous without any malicious barbs or unkind comments. His repartee is superb to all comments received from the audience - and there were several.

His blonde dreadlocked appearance belies his sharp mind. The audience response and participation were very good; he knows how to draw out his audience, without it having to be forced. I am particularly impressed with his avoiding any use whatsoever of that four letter word so enjoyed by other stand-up comedians and done to death by them. This is the mark (absolutely no pun intended) of a true artist.

He has wonderful quips; I liked his statistic that “we share 95% of our DNA with chimpanzees and 4% with lawyers”. Accountants also come in for some nice barbs. His patter obviously incorporates DNA, genes and procreation and these are done in the context of a taxi-ride from Cape Town to Sterkfontein with the bad genes falling off and the good genes continuing, evolution being "not so much the survival of the fittest as the death of the dumbest".

He stresses the genetic uniformity of homo sapiens, with scientists analysing the gene pool going back many generations and proving that we are now all fifty-second cousins to each other. This forms the basis of his concluding that we are all similar and are connected as one human family. It is only in the last six kilometers of our journey where our superficial differences divide us. He concludes that love is what it is all about.

His act has its serious moments but these are never heavy and he doesn’t lose an opportunity to make a very funny aside or throw-away line. He takes us on a rollercoaster taxi-ride through three billion years of evolution: from microbes to man, via Mrs Ples, Homo Erectus and a lot of monkeying about.

Mark Sampson, who now lives in Cape Town, has played to critical acclaim nationally and his show deserves a sell-out season. Missing Links runs at the Catalina Theatre, Wilson’s Wharf, from July 12 to 30 at 20h00. Bookings on 031 305 6889 – Maurice Kort




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