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Sam Campbell: The Trough - Review

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by Aridhi Anderson (subscribe)
Aridhi Anderson is a theatremaker, performer and reviewer based in Melbourne. Check out her work at
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Sam Campbell is a stand up comedian to watch out for
Sam Campbell: The Trough is a uniquely absurd show by an outrageously entertaining stand up comedian. The show blurb on the Melbourne Fringe Festival website is brief: "NOBODY KNOWS WHAT I'M CAPABLE OF! Please come to watch my shows or I will clobber you." Yes, that is the entire show description. And it is surprisingly appropriate.

Sam Campbell: The Trough. Photo from the Melbourne Fringe event page.
Sam Campbell: The Trough. Photo from the Melbourne Fringe event page.

Campbell's presence is an experience. He arrives on stage dressed as some sort of... worm? A wingless fly? It's hard to tell, but he totally owns his costume (a fitted green onesie with bright red gloves). Literally, half the show feels like it's made up of random exclamations (he yells a fair bit), nervous movements, and him interrupting himself. These things are integral to his stage persona and are as endearing as they are effective.

There are a multitude of props used in this show including a large TV, a shovel, a bucket, and heaps more. There are also a lot of... arrangements (I would explain, except spoilers). It is an extremely elaborate show about nothing in particular. It's stand up comedy on shrooms. Every time you start to get comfortable with Campbell's style and direction, he pulls out something completely unexpected and leaves you not knowing what to think, but mostly laughing.

Most of the show is fantastic. A significant chunk of it can be summarised as "funny stuff Sam Campbell put together on his computer, that he leads you through in the style of a power point presentation". Except it isn't a presentation about anything, it's completely random.

The audio-visual effects, which he uses throughout the show, are outstanding. His callback references are on point. The effectiveness of this show is in the delivery, and not the cleverness, although there is certainly a comedic brilliance about how the random elements of this show are compiled.

The only bits in the show that didn't quite work for me were a couple of times when Campbell enlisted the assistance of other people and deviated from his default stage persona for a gag. These deviations were intentional and highlighted Campbell's acting skills, but they caused dips in energy that took a moment or two to recover from. Having said that, he did make good points through the satire in those gags: I was perhaps just unprepared to switch on the thinking part of my brain when they happened.

On the whole, Campbell does a great job of keeping his audience on their toes, making them laugh often and hard, occasionally even to the point of tummy aches and tears. And while the show itself may not have been perfect, the performance came pretty close. Sam Campbell is a comedian to watch out for.

Sam Campbell: The Trough won the 2018 Most Outstanding Show (Barry Award) at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. It is now running at the Fringe Hub: Lithuanian Club (Ballroom) for the Melbourne Fringe Festival from 14 - 21 September 2018.
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Why? Outrageously entertaining stand up comedian
When: 14-21 September 2018
Phone: (03) 9660 9666
Where: Fringe Hub: Lithuanian Club (Ballroom), 44 Errol St, North Melbourne
Cost: $25
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