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Adam Hills: Mess Around

Note: This review is from 2010

Review by Corry Shaw

At times acts can get bogged down in a heavily themed narrative arc, sacrificing mirth for the message they are trying to get across. There are occasions when the funniest bits in the show are when the act wanders off script and the hour descends into audience banter.

Having recognised this, Adam Hills has chosen to ditch the traditional format of a planned performance and takes to the stage with no script, no plan and nothing but the audience to inspire him. As one of the warmest and most respected MCs in the industry it doesn't take long for the crowd to throw themselves into the concept with as much gusto as Hills has.

Within minutes the Aussie star has several people up on stage. He makes his way along the line of students celebrating a 21st birthday extracting laughs at every opportunity – whether its from their names or what they are studying – but he never once crosses the line from humour into cruelty. He is distracted by a Scottish ex-pat now living in Australia and leaves the youths to remain onstage while he wanders into the theatre to have an easier chat with her.

It is a chaotic way of performing but Hills is always in control despite spending about 40 per cent of the time offstage and deep in the audience. He has the talent and knowhow to keep the momentum and laughs rolling despite there being a comedian free stage.

There are a few set pieces for him to fall back on. He explains that to him 'normal people' are more interesting than celebrities and he tells of his bizarre experiences meeting the Queen and Lady Gaga at the Royal Variety Performance. This is a brilliantly told story and offers a new take on the old standard Prince Phillip gags. He closes with an equally interesting and entertaining story about a pizza shop owner who takes an unusual pride in his profession.

Hills never fails to impress. He is just astonishingly good at what he does. There are very few acts – with perhaps the exception of Mark Watson – who can create such a feeling of community and shared goals amongst their fans. And like Watson, Hills doesn't fritter this goodwill on himself.

Early in the run an audience member brought him a soft toy which Hills was going to donate to Edinburgh's Royal Hospital for Sick Children. This small action has now snowballed into an all-out fundraising campaign.

The toy – Honker – being the mascot for a viral internet campaign supported by some impressive celebrity backing. When the audience was asked if they had links to any Scottish celebrities to get behind he movement he uncovered the cousin of Texas lead singer Charlene Spitterri. This same man had only moments earlier been involved in comparing stomachs with Hills onstage to show the effects of a new baby on girthy guts.

And it's moments like this that make this show so special. It is a complete one off, a unique experience only ever to be shared between Hills and his crowd on that night. It is a celebration of camaraderie, chaos and comedy. You'll be hard pushed to find a more organic or enjoyable show on the Fringe this or any other year.

Review date: 29 Aug 2010
Reviewed by: Corry Shaw

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