Nic Sampson @ Pleasance Courtyard

Nic Sampson presents a captivating real-life story which is light on its feet, but lighter on laughs

Review by Polly Glynn | 15 Aug 2022
  • Nic Sampson

It’s swelteringly hot and there’s a long road ahead of you. No, it’s not the Royal Mile during the festival, it’s Nic Sampson’s Marathon, 1904. In his debut hour at the Edinburgh Fringe, Sampson’s intelligent and captivating narrative focuses on three marathon competitors in the St. Louis Olympics: Thomas Hicks, a prim and proper English athlete; Fred Lorz, a prank-loving New York jock; and Andarin Carvajal, the Cuban postman whose main attribute is that he likes to run.

Sampson flits between characters with a quick pirouette and embodies the competitors, Alice Roosevelt and even her pet snake, Ms Emily Spinach, with ease. He plays with the audience, encouraging one particularly eager punter to become his idiom-loving father, whilst demanding that another fuels him along the marathon armed with a burning sponge, rat poison, brandy and raw egg whites. These interactions give the show a real boost, especially when you think you’re reaching your limit of twists and turns.

The source material is an excellent place to start for this ‘couldn’t make it up’ tale with most of the show’s gags coming from the unbelievable truths of the infamous sporting event. However, at points, the show feels overwhelmingly actorly and despite its often slick presentation, Marathon, 1904 feels underwritten for a comedy show. It’s itching for throwaway quips between character changes and chapter progressions, which would also inject a little more energy into the surprisingly low-key hour, whilst more opportunities for Sampson to use his improvisational talents would bring more light relief to the race.

Nic Sampson: Marathon, 1904, Pleasance Courtyard (Cellar), until 28 Aug (not 15), 4.40pm, £9-12